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Graduate vacancies return to pre-recession levels amid fierce competition

As students across the country pack away their study guides and revision notes, and wait for their exam results to come through, they can take heart in the recent news that the number of graduate-level openings has now returned to pre-recession levels.

The biggest rises, according to a survey by High Fliers Research, were in three popular sectors: media, engineering, and consultancy.

But competition for places is as fierce as ever, with leading employers receiving around 39 applications for each graduate position.

Those candidates who have undertaken internships are reported to have a significant advantage over their peers, with around two out of five vacancies being reserved for people with previous experience.

In the financial sector, three-quarters of posts will require experience, and in top law firms around half of them will.


Internships are useful to both employers and candidates, providing the one with a new and loyal talent pool of eager starters, and the other with invaluable experience and a toehold to a career path.

But employers should be mindful of their obligations to interns. Unlike volunteers and people on work experience, interns may well be entitled to the National Minimum Wage (NMW), as well as certain other employment rights.

If an intern is not of compulsory school age, and does regular work for an employer, or is promised a contract for future work, then it is likely he or she is due the NMW. Interns whose work is for less than a year and part of a further or higher education course are not usually entitled to the NMW.

Employers would also do well to ensure that internships are not dominated by students with wealthy backgrounds and well-connected parents.

The principles of fair and open recruitment should apply to interns as they do to other candidates, to encourage workforce diversity and to ensure that employers have access to widest talent pool and best possible candidates.

Acas publications and services

Acas can provide advice on the difference between Volunteers, work experience and internships, and can visit your organisation to review your existing Recruitment and retention procedures and help you avoid discriminatory practices.

Detailed Acas training is also available on Contracts and terms and conditions and Recruitment.

For free, impartial advice on any employment relations issue, call the Acas Helpline on 0300 123 1100, or consult Helpline Online.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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