How do graduates fit in your business culture?

What do you look for when recruiting tertiary graduates to your business?

Ai Group’s 2014 survey of workforce development needs found that graduates who fit with the business culture were most favoured by the greatest percentage of member companies (35%). Employers ranked relevant work experience as the second highest factor they look for in a graduate.

In the same survey employers said that recent graduate recruits need greater problem-solving capacities and improved levels of initiative and enterprise.

It is recognised that these shortcomings for business can be effectively addressed through work-integrated learning – often known as graduate placement.

Ai Group, along with its partners, is driving a coordinated effort to build and utilise work-integrated learning to improve the calibre of our graduates in Australia. On 2 June, with our partners, we held a national forum to develop actions from our joint National Framework on Work Integrated Learning in University Education. Our partners in this national effort include the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Business Council of Australia, Universities Australia and the Australian Collaborative Education Network Ltd.

Many employers and universities practise a range of local work placements and projects to assist graduates to be work ready. Businesses recognise that productivity can be higher sooner if their new recruits understand business environments and cultures, can problem solve, take initiative and work well in teams.

The recent national forum aimed to make it easier for businesses to take on students/graduates by developing clear statements on what work-integrated learning is, by providing employers with models and guidelines to adopt, and by outlining legal requirements.

Employers who regularly take on students have expressed the benefits – students bring fresh ideas into the company and refresh the environment. The links to universities can also expose the business to relevant, emerging research that provides a competitive edge.

Do you provide students/graduates with placements that boost your business? Or do you want to connect with a university to place a graduate in a specific field that relates to your business? Contact Anne Younger to discuss or share your thoughts below.

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Anne joined Ai Group as an economist and is currently our General Manager, Education and Training. She is responsible for policy development and major projects addressing members’ education and training issues. Anne previously managed Ai Group's national team of Enterprise Connect Business Advisers charged with helping SMEs to improve productivity. Holding a Master of Education (Educational Leadership and Management) and a Bachelor of Economics, Anne worked for over 25 years in the VET sector in policy, research, training and quality management roles before joining Ai Group. She is a Board member of Innovation and Business Skills Australia (IBSA).


  1. James

    It seems that the AIG can’t see the illogical nature of its own argument, repeated here from your Big Ideas talk. So you want graduates to have 2-3 years experience when they start a job? This is oxymoronic: they have just STARTED their careers. Previously, employers gave graduates an opportunity to learn on the job then made a judgement of their performance. Now you want young people to work for you for FREE in work placements so you can do this before you start paying them. Rather than being greedy and avoiding paying people to work maybe the AIG should support young people in jobs and if they still don’t perform then move them on. Unfortunately, people at the AIG forget that even they started out as inexperienced workers who needed an opportunity to learn before they made it rich and started lecturing young people about lacking work skills.

    1. Anne Younger (Post author)

      As an association focussed on the needs of member companies and Australian business as a whole, Ai Group is acting on members’ advice that many of their graduate recruits do not possess the work ready capabilities needed to operate effectively. We agree that it is difficult for graduates to have all of these capabilities if they haven’t experienced the workforce. Many companies have long recognised this too and a large range of localised links exists between business and universities, such as graduate placements and internships, in order to help develop work skills.

      Ai Group has recognised that to make it easier for more companies, who don’t know where to start, to take on tertiary students, guides are needed on successful models, including advice on payment to students. We also recognise that, wherever possible, work experience needs to be built into university courses, rather than be seen as an optional add on.

      As mentioned in the blog, and in The Big Ideas program, Ai Group is actioning this work through the National Framework for Work Integrated Learning. We have partnered with the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Australian Collaborative Education Network and Universities Australia and we are undertaking coordinated activity built around eight key areas:

      • Providing national leadership to expand Work Integrated Learning (WIL);
      • Clarifying government policy and regulatory settings to enable and support growth in WIL;
      • Building support – among students, universities, employers across all sectors and governments – to increase participation in WIL;
      • Ensuring the investment in WIL is well targeted and enables sustainable, high quality experiences, stakeholder participation and growth;
      • Developing university resources, processes and systems to grow WIL and engage business and community partners;
      • Building capacity for more employers to participate in WIL;
      • Addressing equity and access issues to enable students to participate in WIL; and
      • Increasing WIL opportunities for international students and for domestic students to study off-shore.

      What do employers think? What is happening in your workplace?


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