Schemes and training programmes

Many larger employers run specific annual graduate recruitment schemes that offer established routes into their organisation.

Employers provide a highly structured programme of experience, training and development and aim to prepare you for managerial positions early in your career. These graduate schemes are highly coveted and are the holy grail for many graduates.

Schemes will vary considerably, but may include:

  • general management schemes – you might spend periods of time in several different areas of the business (eg finance or human resources) to get a good understanding of the whole operation before deciding what area you wish to focus on
  • professional training schemes – you'll undertake professional training alongside your day-to-day work within the business with the support of your employer (eg accountancy training contracts or actuarial work)
  • specific direct-entry schemes – you might go into a specific area of the business to do a defined role, but would be part of a wider graduate entry group with the accompanying training, support and career structure (eg operations within banking or IT within retail).

Formal graduate training schemes generally last approximately between one and three years, and are usually a combination of on the job training and possibly the study towards relevant professional qualifications. These could be the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD), Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) and Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) to name a few.

Advantages of a structured scheme

The benefits of taking part in one of these schemes include:

  • excellent entry level salary
  • strong emphasis on training and development
  • opportunity to study for a professional qualification may be funded by your employer
  • potential for an accelerated career path to managerial level
  • high potential to build transferable skills, experience and knowledge
  • recognised by other employers as conferring a certain level of attainment
  • contacts made throughout the organisation during your training period may assist you later.
  • possibility of access to a mentor or buddy may assist you in finding your feet in the initial few months of work
  • valuable access to each department and the issues faced by each function.

Issues to consider

The demand for graduate schemes is high and competition can be fierce. Organisations are keen to attract the best graduates so you will need a strong CV and often specific A level and degree level grades.

It's also worth noting that failure to meet performance targets or pass exams can result in termination of employment. It can also pose a potential disruption to your personal life if you need to move to a different location at short notice.

The application process

The application process will vary for each employer, but will typically consist of:

Entry requirements

For entry onto the majority of graduate training schemes, you'll need to offer between 280-320 UCAS points (or equivalent), but this will very much depend on the employment sector you're applying for.

When to apply

Sometimes the recruitment season catches a lot of students out. For some graduate roles and companies there is a season, which means that there is a set duration for accepting applications. If you miss this window, you won't be able to apply again to a specific company for another twelve months.

For many companies the recruitment season runs as follows:

  • September to January: Applications open
  • February: Applications close. Employers begin scanning and filtering applications
  • March/April: Assessment and offers
  • May/June: Possible re-opening to top-up any remaining places
  • July: Review
  • August/September: Start date

Give yourself a reasonable chance by getting your application to a prospective employer in the first place. The period September to January of your final year is often crucial.

This doesn't apply to all recruiters, but you will be surprised how many it does apply to – particularly larger organisations with established graduate training schemes. Lots more graduate employers recruit all year round, so it's worth checking to make sure you don't miss any real opportunities.

Find out more

To learn more about graduate schemes and training programmes, please contact us:

Careers and Employability