With more and more young people attending university, the elitism of the graduate recruitment programme makes no sense, says Simon Howard (BA)
When I began work there was a huge snobbery about who did, and who did not have degrees. In fact in the wrong company (in both senses of the word) it could be a real handicap ­ you might be labelled the bright kid/swot/spoilt brat/arrogant twit/ambitious sod [delete as applicable] who few wanted to know and no one wanted to work with.
I remember, with excruciating embarrassment, ordering my first business cards with the rather grand moniker Simon J Howard BA'­ come to think of it, not grand moniker but complete plonker. Anyway if the Simon J' wasn't bad enough (although at the time the boss was grandly styled G Michael') the BA seemed to wind people up something rotten.

A rare breed
Now, as you can see from the picture, I'm not exactly ancient, but back in the late 1970s a graduate was a rather rare breed, and what with all those accelerated promotion schemes which were especially reserved for us, we got a bit of a hard time in the workplace. Unjustifiably, however, because most of us were not on accelerated promotion schemes, and were ordinary Joes who'd worked hard (fluked our A levels) and had a chance for a university education.
But we were among the first of the ordinary Joes, and most of the graduates who preceded us were the real elite, although there I might be splitting hairs. However, at the time I went down to Exeter in 1974 only 12% got a shot at university, and by the time the lawyers, the medics and the teachers had gone off to do their postgraduate studies, there were even fewer of us left to make it into industry.
In fact only 30,000 of us ventured into the workforce in 1977 ­ compare that with in excess of 120,000 today.
What's more, only a rather demure 30% were women in 1977,whereas a thumping 56% of them are today. And yet what is really odd is that despite these enormous changes, employers still recruit graduates in much the same way as they did then.
Typically, our hunt for employment started with a trip to the careers service for some useless advice from someone who had never done a day's work outside the education system. However, just to make sure it wasn't a wasted trip, you'd grab a few graduate recruitment brochures and a careers directory.
You would then attend the odd presentation and eagerly await company visits on the milk round.
Offers were sent out months in advance of a start date in the belief that the best apply young (well early, anyway).
With the exception of there being plenty of information available on the internet, little has changed today. The tools the graduate recruiters use are much the same as those designed for when graduates were the elite as opposed to the norm.
The early birds' are still held out to be the prize game and employers will typically meet/interview/assess 10 graduates for each one that ends up joining.
The question is, why? It seems employers have failed to ask themselves whether it is worth all this effort of traipsing around the universities and getting sucked into doing the same thing that everyone else does.

Sufficient entry points
Given a clean sheet, I would be pushed to advise a typical employer to go about it in this way. Sure, if you're recruiting hundreds or even thousands it makes sense to have such a focused effort, but the majority of employers recruit tens of graduates, and such schemes make no sense at all.
In fact, do they need "graduates" at all?
Perhaps it would be better if they ensured that they had sufficient entry points for young talented people to join their organisations.
Not enough of them do right now because not enough of them have really thought about what they need.

n Simon Howard is a founder of Work Communications and writes the Jobfile column for the Sunday Times.