Training is over and we are now on our way to becoming star facilitators!
I'm really looking forward to starting the Graduate East journey in order to support graduates in this tough economic climate. It's a battle to secure employment in the UK right now, and having a degree to present at an interview doesn't make it any easier. With zero-hour contracts becoming more common, and young people having to replace their graduation caps with fast food caps, morale amongst graduates is severely low.
According to the Office for National Statistics, almost half of recent graduates are working in jobs for which a higher educational background is not required, up sharply from 39 per cent before the financial crisis struck.
Graduating ought to mean the world is your oyster, and that you're the perfect candidate for a job relating to your degree field. But this is unfortunately not often the case. The job market is competitive, to say the least. Don't be surprised if a law student is the one serving your coffee, or if your groceries are scanned through by a student who has a postdoctorate.
All this shows how crucial it is to equip graduates with relevant employability skills and experiences, in order for their strengths and passions to be put to good use. I could write a dissertation about the barriers UK graduates face in gaining employment, but instead, I'll just briefly identify some important points.
The sole focus of universities is often on written assignments and theory, which does not prepare graduates for employment. In the case of those who do find work, graduates often face the possibility of feeling like a square peg in a round hole, often lacking prioritisation skills and office etiquette knowledge.
Experience is crucial, but how does one get experience if you need experience to get it?
We often have to make do with months and months of voluntary work and/or internships (either unpaid or paid). Needless to say, it can lead to feeling undervalued when you are not paid or recognised for your efforts.
For me personally, I never viewed voluntary work or internships as a chore. The ones I have done have really shaped who I am and what I believe in. I sought opportunities that I believed would help me progress and identified areas of interest which, in the long run, made me stand out to employers.
Graduates from deprived communities such as Tower Hamlets in East London, have it even tougher. We are often the first generation to attend and graduate from university, and have no family networks of employment to tap into. We are not expected to succeed as we weren't born with silver spoons in our mouths. Not only that, but the lack of ethnic minority groups in several employment fields can leave some of us believing we do not belong in prestigious and world-renowned organisations.
So how did this all come about for me?
I found out about the Graduate East facilitator role on The Bromley by Bow Centre (BBBC) website. I completed the online application, and was quietly confident when I got selected for the interview.
I researched the BBBC and Digital Opportunity Trust thoroughly, and already had a good understanding of the community's needs. Having been a graduate who lacked employability skills and faced several barriers to finding work, I used that to my advantage. I talked about my experience in completing a graduate training programme with the East London Business Alliance, and my experience working in community investment at a corporate organisation.
I was lucky enough to have plenty of supporters and previous colleagues who offered advice for the interview, and who had connections with the Centre itself. The job seemed like such a good fit for me, and how often can you say you live five minutes away from work (given travel prices in London, I'm saving a fortune!).
A month into the programme, and it's been a brilliant start. I have learned so much so far - from creating new content to suit graduates, to engaging participants in sessions, to promoting the programme. I couldn't have asked for a friendlier and more supportive team to work with. I'm looking forward to delivering Graduate East and putting all our hard work into practice!