Why Don’t More Subject Matter Experts Invest in Graduates?

By investing in graduate schemes, businesses can gain access to a pool of innovative thinkers, passionate contributors, and future leaders.

Both graduates and post-graduates have a huge impact on the UK labor force. In 2022, Universities UK reported that in the last 16 years, around 6.6 million degree-educated workers have entered the workforce. That means the proportion of the UK workforce with a degree or equivalent has increased from 30.3 percent in 2004 to 48.5 percent in 2020.

Many of these will participate in graduate schemes, defined by Prospects.ac.uk as structured training programs run by an employer to develop recent graduates within an organization. Often these are run by the largest UK organizations, both in the public and private sector. While these large organizations across various sectors tap into this burgeoning talent pool, subject matter experts (SMEs) appear hesitant to invest time and resources in training their own graduates.

This is a puzzling scenario, and it is hard to pinpoint the reasons behind the reluctance. Because SMEs often operate with limited budgets and manpower, the prospect of training and onboarding graduates may seem daunting. Furthermore, a perceived mismatch between academic knowledge and practical skills can deter SMEs from engaging with fresh graduates, leading to a hesitance to invest in their development.

Fostering Talent

The above concerns are often based more on perception than reality, and the potential benefits of SMEs engaging with graduates far outweigh these issues. Rather, there is clearly a case to be made for SMEs operating their own graduate schemes.

For instance, companies in the technology sector face intense competition for skilled resources. There are often shortages of talented employees, especially in niche technology. Mitigating this challenge by building the skills of fresh graduates is one solution. Often graduates offer the raw talent and focused enthusiasm SMEs can benefit from. Coupled with that, they are typically willing and keen to learn. They frequently want to develop fast and in line with that, they are often receptive to training opportunities.

It is important, however, for the company to consider whether it has flexibility in terms of being big enough to support in-house training, and enough financial resources to support fledgling workers.

The Benefits of Graduate Engagement

Successful SMEs owe it to the business community to develop talent rather than rely solely on recruitment. But the benefits go further than this. Graduates can bring fresh ideas and fresh energy to shake up businesses and keep them focused on finding new ways to achieve their goals.

There are reverse mentoring opportunities on offer, too. Graduates are often enthusiastic not just to take advantage of learning opportunities and be mentored, they are also keen to pass on their own knowledge to others. That gives more senior, experienced staff within the organization the opportunity to tap into the fresh perspectives and ideas of younger executives, ultimately providing them with new innovative ideas.

Businesses can build stronger partnerships by involving like-minded, receptive business customers in the scheme also. By assigning passionate hard-working graduate trainees to a specific customer project, they can ensure their customer benefits from their own investment and strengthen the bond between the two organizations.

But it is not just the employers who benefit, graduates benefit too from the opportunity to be part such schemes. Particularly in the SME sector, graduates get the advantage of working within a relatively small company while being exposed to their larger clients. Businesses must ensure they offer graduates a diverse range of experiences, exposing them to varied tasks and roles within the organization. That breadth and richness of work is vital to graduates as they look to evolve their experience and explore routes to fulfil their potential, and is critically important for attracting and retaining the best graduates.

At the same time, graduates get the chance to see how a business works and operates, which may have eluded them had they signed up to a larger, less transparent enterprise. And often by working with an SME, they will have the opportunity to achieve career progression within a more nurturing and supportive environment than a large enterprise could offer.

Unlocking Untapped Potential

The untapped potential of graduates can be the driving force behind SMEs’ transformative growth. By investing in graduate schemes, these businesses gain access to a pool of innovative thinkers, passionate contributors, and future leaders. To attain the far-reaching benefits, they just need to believe in the power of harnessing raw talent and channelling it into strategic growth.

As we navigate an era of unprecedented challenges and opportunities, embracing graduates might just be the secret ingredient that propels SMEs to new heights of success.

Chris Brooks
Chris Brooks is the managing director at Symatrix.