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Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) Annual Conference

Posted by Tobin Webb on September 23, 2009

With thanks to Katie Dalton, President of NUS Wales – I was invited to do a little NUS Wales work in attending this event in just over the Severn bridge from me in Newport, which turned out to be much more of a thought-provoking event than I expected.

I was invited to address the conference as part of a panel talking about the student experience and recruitment methods of AGR members. What emerged was a heated debate about fair access to professions and an ‘outing’ of dodgy recruitment methods. We’ve all heard the debate for many years now about fair access to HE, but it amazes me that the same kind of public pressure isn’t being mounted on graduate recruiters.

Alan Milburn MP’s very welcome report “Unleashing Aspiration” which you can (and should) read, starts to address these issues, but opening the doors to more apprentices is like trying to wallpaper over the cracks of this deeply ingrained issue. Graduate recruiters need to be exposed for what they are up to – many in the room were quite open and unapologetic about their methods which play right into the old elitist vision of HE – “we don’t even bother looking at applicants from universities we don’t recognise the name of” said one young recruitment manager “we simply don’t have the time.” One recruiter – from a firm I wish I could remember the name of – was passionately arguing in favour of breaking down these barriers and she went further to say that she had switched to system where she was seeking “potential” as well as “attainment”, encouraging recruiters to drop their old fashioned approaches of seeking out Russell/94 Group grads with a 2:1 that can pass a maths test and said she had started looking at contextual data and taking a wholistic approach to her assessment of applicants to great success, which her recruits going on to thrive and succeed.

I couldn’t help but think that this argument was strikingly similar to the ones around progressive access agreements to Universities, where contextual data is taken into account and lower grade offers given and recent published studies show that these students almost always go on to not only thrive in their HE institution, but often outshine those students from more traditional backgrounds and schools. It seems to me that the graduate recruiters are just the next barrier to social mobility and inclusion that starts with what postcode you’re born in, what school you go to and what university you may end up at – but it seems the kinds of attitudes they represent are even more out-of-date than the worst offending HE institutions.

It’s time to ramp up the pressure on these people – with youth and graduate unemployment so disturbingly high, David Lammy coming on the radio as he did this month and telling us “not to worry, I’ve been on the phone to PwC and they still have vacancies” just doesn’t fill me full of hope I’m afraid…


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Posted by Tobin Webb on September 23, 2009

…and it all began. NEC training and our first meeting – a really interesting two days getting to know the team and how NUS works. One thing is clear – this NEC is more cohesive and collective than ever before, with NEC veteran members left in shock that there was a real sense that we were going to get things done and leave the squabbling behind. Don’t get me wrong – political diversity is as present as ever, but the debates were constructive, respectful and, dare I say it, sensible. This meeting was dominated by start of year house keeping matters and a huge volume of business left over from Annual Conference. Full minutes are available from me, just leave a comment here or e-mail me – I’m happy to answer any questions people have about the content and welcome discussion. Also notable in this meeting, I was appointed the NUT scholarship holder for the year ahead – this is exciting and am planning some big work with this later in the year – more blogs on this to come…

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Blogging on the Block

Posted by Tobin Webb on September 22, 2009

Diary of an NEC member…

Whilst the NUS website goes through its much needed overhaul, I’ve decided to make my own blog here – I thought it would be good for member unions – who after all voted me into this position – to keep a track of what I’m doing, have a chance to input their comments, ideas and suggestions and generally keep a link between their national executive and unions on the ground.

I aim to blog about all the activities I’m undertaking in my role as well as update you on what’s happening at NEC meetings and decisions made. I will also blog about issues and hopefully spark some interest, comment and debate – so get involved in what will hopefully be an interactive webpage with more interesting discussions than you might find on certain other student union discussion sites *cough*ednet*cough*…

So – let’s get up to date, what have I been up to since you elected me…..the blogs will tell all….

Tobin Webb

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