Scottish graduates 'told to dumb down CVs'

Generic student holding degree
Image caption More than 90% of Scottish students go into employment or further education within six months of graduating

Jobcentre staff have advised university graduates to "dumb down" their CVs in order to find work, a survey has suggested.

Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) said two-thirds of the students it surveyed found the Jobcentre unhelpful in finding work.

And only 1% said it was helpful in finding graduate-level work.

The Department of Work and Pensions said advisers would not tell candidates to lie about their qualifications.

A spokeswoman said: "With any job application, our advisers will recommend that the candidate tailors the presentation of their skills and experience to the job they are applying for."

CAS said many graduates were apparently told by Jobcentre staff that their qualifications actually deterred employers and advised to leave degrees off their CVs altogether to secure "survival jobs".

The CAS report, Degrees Of Insecurity, surveyed 1,000 Scottish graduates to discover how they have coped in the recession.

Three-fifths felt they were poorly advised about their career while still at school and about two-fifths (43%) said their university failed to prepare them for work.

About a quarter (23%) were unemployed for up to a year after leaving university, while one in 10 could not find a job for at least 18 months, according to the survey.

One 25-year-old law graduate told CAS: "At the (Jobcentre) group meetings we were encouraged to leave any degree off the CV to help us find more plentiful unskilled work. Nobody would employ me as a cleaner if I had a degree. I was told to stop looking for graduate work and take a 'survival' job."

A 25-year-old art history graduate said: "The Jobcentre was not interested in my degree. Frequently they seemed to suggest that, if anything, my qualification and level of education were a deterrent to possible future employers."

CAS chief executive Margaret Lynch said: "Having been told a degree was the key to a successful and prosperous life, and having worked hard and sacrificed a lot to get one, many have become entrenched instead in a culture of unemployment or low wages and short-term contracts.

"It's heart-rending to read so many accounts of people, once full of hope for the future, who feel their lives are on hold. Some are even questioning whether it was worth the time, money and effort they put into getting their degrees.

"We would never say that a degree is not worthwhile but this survey reveals in stark detail the extent of the crisis that many graduates are facing."

CAS has called for students and graduates to be given much more support when they move from graduation into work.

A Department of Work and Pensions spokeswoman responded: "There's lots of help out there for jobseekers, including young people and graduates. Jobcentre Plus advisers can help with skills and training, work experience is available for those who need it and the New Enterprise Allowance helps claimants set up their own business."

'Constant negativity'

And Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, said: "The results of the Citizens Advice survey are statistically invalid. The survey, and all media coverage to promote it, was deliberately and unashamedly targeted at graduates who have struggled to find work.

"Therefore, it is completely unrepresentative of the graduate population as a whole and paints a far more negative picture than is actually the case.

"There is no denying that the recession has had a negative impact on all young people and graduates have not been immune. However, national statistics on graduate destinations from HESA show that despite tough times 93% of graduates from Scotland go on to positive destinations within only six months of graduating and of those in jobs, over two-thirds are entering directly into professional and managerial jobs.

"Constant negativity around young peoples' prospects can be damagingly demotivational and may dissuade learners from pursuing the university studies which will give them the best possible prospects in a tough economy."

Scottish Youth Employment Minister Angela Constance said Scotland had the highest rate of graduate employment in the UK.

She added: "More than 90% of Scottish students graduating in 2010-11 went onto employment or further study, with graduates from Scottish universities also reporting the highest average starting salary in the UK at £21,000."

NUS Scotland president Robin Parker said: "Getting a degree remains a huge advantage for getting a job and still very worthwhile more generally. It's those without qualifications or with low-level qualifications that will be worst off in this unemployment crisis".