Iain Heath, Head of Graduates at Centrica, talks about the valuable role we are playing to help combat high levels of youth unemployment and support graduates achieve their ambitions in the workplace.
Despite youth unemployment showing signs of decline in Britain (note 1), I believe it remains one of the most significant challenges facing society today. And while an expected 350,000 students up and down the UK are currently embarking on a new journey into the world of work as graduates, we are striving to ensure that more people don’t become an out of work statistic.
One of the ways we are helping overcome unemployment is by investing in training opportunities for Britain’s young people. For example, in 2013 we had over 1,200 apprenticeships throughout our business and we also pledged our support to Step Up 2 Serve, a programme which seeks to get businesses more involved in providing workplace opportunities for young people. My team and I also run a number of work placement programmes and with the graduation season well underway, I wanted to focus this blog on telling you some more about how our award-wining graduate programme is not only enabling young people fulfil their ambitions, but it is securing the future talent pipeline needed for both our country and business.
Our Graduate Programme
Consistent with the rising number of graduates in the UK over the past decade (note 2), we have grown our graduate programme in recent years to provide 72 places. The programme gives graduates a valuable opportunity to develop new workplace skills and business acumen across 12 core areas throughout our UK business, including Finance, Marketing, HR, Customer Operations and Engineering. Indeed, our engineering and subsurface placements are playing an important role plugging STEM skills and career gaps in the UK (note 3), whereby our pioneering graduates are helping secure future energy needs.
Placements last between two to four years, during which our graduates undertake a series of roles in a challenging but rewarding environment that maximises their development. We ensure they get the most from their experience by treating them as an integral addition to our workforce and tasking them to deliver projects that make a genuine contribution to our business success. These projects will shape their own future, but the future of energy too. The graduates also participate in a Charity Challenge to expand entrepreneurial skills as well as create a positive contribution to local communities and charities closely linked to our business, such as Shelter.
The success of our business and our graduate programme depends on providing an environment in which all our employees can flourish, so alongside our talent development activities, we make sure our graduates receive effective support that will enable them to reach their learning potential. How do we achieve this? We have redesigned our core development programme across all streams in 2014 alongside a number of support mechanisms outlined below:
- Dedicated Talent Managers and Board provide ongoing support, advice and leadership on rotational placements
- Line managers facilitate learning by setting project work and ensuring graduates stretch to exceed their objectives as well as support them day-to-day
- Career Mentors help graduates strive to become high-performers
- A 'buddy' system pairs previous graduates with new intake to support and answer queries
In recognition of the contribution our graduates make to our business, alongside our commitment to ensure we have a diverse and talented workforce, we provide our graduates with a competitive salary which helps ensure students from all backgrounds, including low-income, have equal access to the programme.
Graduates on our programme can expect a good head-start in forging positive future careers. Our placements are highly regarded which is illustrated by Centrica ranking within The Times’ Top 100 graduate employers list for the fourth consecutive year and through attainment of a top 50 position via Rate my Placement. What’s more, the Graduate Programme is often a route to long-term employment: for example, 98% of those who completed the programme over the past five years have secured permanent employment with us. This helps reduce unemployment and enables us to retain the high-performing young talent needed to continue the sustainable success of our business.
If you’d like to know more about our commitment to creating a great place to work, read our 2013 CR Performance Review. Or, visit our graduate website and facebook to explore our work placement offerings.
1 Youth unemployment statistics, Commons Library Standard Note 14 May 2014
2 Office for National Statistics, Full Report - Graduates in the UK Labour Market 2013