Career mentorship platform targets graduates from diverse institutions

Industry leaders are joining a platform to offer career advice to underrepresented graduates

A career mentorship scheme for university leavers is calling on more diverse candidates to make connections with its 107 professional volunteers.

Founded in August 2020 to help graduates navigate the coronavirus jobs crisis, Graduate Mentor partners with senior professional volunteers including business leaders, recruiters, and career coaches from across the industries to offer job seekers free career advice.

Shifting employer preferences

With 500 mentor sessions completed so far, the platform encourages employers to recruit talent from diverse universities other than the usual Russell Group institutions. They also want to influence increased employer interest in graduates from disciplines beyond STEM subjects.

To influence this sea change, Graduate Mentor is encouraging underrepresented candidates on their database to join the platform and speak with professionals high up the career ladder in their preferred sector who can offer inside knowledge about getting noticed by employers.

The power of mentorship

This sort of collaboration is crucial, says platform founder Dan Hawes, who also runs a profits-based graduate recruitment consultancy business, as it helps underrepresented graduates figure out alternative ways to access career opportunities: “Normally, our clients look for STEM graduates from Russell Universities. It’s much much harder for those graduates from other disciplines and institutions. So we thought, let’s make this platform more directed at those from underrepresented groups.

“From our database, we’re able to help those individuals from certain universities. For instance, the University of Westminster is one of the most diverse universities there is so we’re driving students from there, plus other pockets of the graduate population to the platform.”

Proven results

Five months after it was founded, the platform can claim to be directly responsible for helping a graduate secure a job. Henry, a graduate engineer from Northumbria University, was directed to it by his brother after a series of unsuccessful job applications.

Commenting on his experience with his mentor, he said: “What really worked was making a speculative approach. He told me to choose a company I really wanted to work for even though they weren’t advertising any graduate vacancies. Then he said find the CEO on LinkedIn and send a message with your cv attached. Within 30 minutes, I got a reply, and we set up a chat over Zoom. I must have impressed them because he offered me a job to start the next day!”

Following its successful uptake over the last few months, Graduate Mentor is looking to foster partnerships with a number of large organisations, to align on matters of corporate social responsibility and D&I. The next step from this, according to Hawes, is the securing of funding to ensure the platform’s future while retaining its compelling offering of free career advice for diverse candidates.

Hiring bias and university groups

A plethora of statistics shows UK employers favour candidates from Russell Group institutions that are viewed as elite due to their reputation for research excellence and happen to have a less diverse student demographic. In 2018, a graph from the Higher Education Statistics Agency showed that white students made up over 75% of all students by ethnicity at these institutions.

An HR report released last year showed that 83% of non-Russell Group graduates would not have secured a job without an internship. This is contrasted by the low number (14%) of Russell Group graduates who said they needed an internship to secure their first role. These figures show that graduates from non-Russell Group universities, which also happen to be more diverse institutions, have a harder time securing work due to hiring prejudices which highlights the necessity for fairer access to career support for these candidates.

A Government study published last year also shows the unequal playing field minority graduates face in the jobs market generally. Out of all ethnic groups, white graduates were most likely to be in long-term employment one year after leaving university. However, the statistics were not as promising for graduates from the black ‘other’, other, and Arab groups who were most likely to have no sustained employment.

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