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Graduate Schemes: who needs ‘em?

- by Hannah Briggs - University of Derby




Graduating can be a daunting process. This is when the time finally comes to integrate yourself into the real world and trade in the £1.50 Jäger bombs on a Wednesday night for an early evening viewing of your favourite soap before a nice early night. It sounds delightful really! What is there to worry about? Except for the rest of your life of course…

After you graduate the world really is your oyster. Nowadays, we are so fortunate to have the endless list of opportunities that once did not exist. That’s great, right!? But where on earth do you begin?

One of the most popular and effective routes for students are graduate schemes. In the hospitality sectorfor example, graduate schemes offer students the opportunity to experience all levels of hospitality roles, often using a rotation scheme. This enables the student to gain practical work experience in a range of departments within the business; from housekeeping, to food and beverage, to events and conferencing and much more. These experiences give them the opportunity to develop the skills needed to work up to head of department and potentially even general manager level. Other benefits of graduate schemes include:

  • On-the-job training and support
  • Potential to earn a high salary
  • Variety of choices, e.g. getting into more specific sectors such as finance, marketing, HR.
  • Provides the candidate with job security
  • Gives better career prospects
  • Offers opportunities to work globally

Some of the best graduate schemes, as voted for by students, are provided by companies such as Aldi, Google and the NHS2. Let’s look at the NHS for example. The scheme is now in its 70thyear and boasts an alumni which includes four out of the last five NHS chief executives, one being the current chief executive. The fact it is in its 70thyear alone is a testament to just how effective it is proven to be, but also seeing the level of success of four candidates that have completed it works extremely well in its favour. Aldi, the bargain supermarket giant, offers a graduate scheme with a starting salary of £44,000… that’s one way to improve staff loyalty! Another way these graduate scheme leaders hook graduates in is by offering fun work perks. Google in particular isrenowned for this as their staff have access to free food (probably not bad either), pinball machines and nap rooms. 

Now, this is not to say that this exact approach would work in the spa industry. As we know, that kind of salary would be highly unrealistic for a scheme like this in our industry, but what’s stopping us from taking the general concept and adapting it to our environment just like the hospitality sector has? For example, a spa graduate scheme in a hotel spa could include working within the spa for 3 months, moving onto something like rooms divisions to gain a further understanding and experience of guest relations and continuing to work throughout other departments within the hotel such as HR. This experience would not only give the individuals all the skills they will need in the work environment but also when they get to management level, they will be able to understand and respect their employees as they have first-hand experience of each role.

As it currently stands, the spa industry does little to offer graduate schemes to students entering into the industry. From a student perspective, graduate schemes are very appealing as they allow the opportunity for clear career progression, something which is extremely sought after in young people who are about to enter the workforce. This opportunity to work their way up to the top keeps graduates motivated as they can clearly see they have the ability to work up to head of department, spa manager or spa director perhaps in 5-10 years’ time, unlike a lot of career options that do not present such a clear path. The idea of introducing graduate schemes into the spa industry would not only benefit the graduates but also benefit the industry as it would encourage the graduates to utilise their degree and stay working within their industry. 

These schemes would also help to combat the alarmingly high staff retention issues the spa industry faces. Studies show1that younger generations, who are now making up a large portion of the workforce, exhibit lower levels of institutional loyalty with an increased emphasis on fairness and wanting to work in an environment where their employers have a genuine concern for their personal wellbeing. As the industry cannot realistically promise the large salaries that Aldi offers on their graduate scheme, they could incorporate workplace wellness and incentives to make the staff feel just as valued. For example, after so many hours of treatment or so many products sold, they could offer vouchers for the product brand they are working with or for treatment/facility time of their own. Allowing them to gain experiences and skills in various departments whilst also offering incentives and workplace wellness policies will not only give them a well needed break from the physical pull of performing spa treatments, but also keep them engaged with their work, therefore meeting the expectations of young employees and could possibly help to increase levels of institutional loyalty.

As Sir Richard Branson campaigns, “train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough, so they don’t want to”. Some employers may believe graduate schemes could be risky as they provide free training to get candidates to a level where they can do anything. However, I believe, as a student about to venture into the workforce myself, if somewhere or someone were to invest their time, money and trust in me, I would wholeheartedly return the favour. If the spa and wellness industry were to implement schemes such as those discussed above, I truly think it could change the way young people stereotype the industry and prove to them there is just as many, if not more, opportunities in this industry as there is in more traditional career routes.

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Tuesday, 02 June 2020