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Right to reply: Pinewood responds to graduate 'failings'

The managing director of Pinewood Computer Solutions, Neville Briggs, has responded in a letter to our article 'graduates fail as employees'.

Click on 'next page' belwo to read the original article.

"I read with some disappointment your story graduates 'fail' as employees, which reported that more than half of employers questioned in a survey regard graduates they employed as either 'average' to 'poor' in terms of numeracy and literacy, while just under half rated their oral skills too as 'average' to 'poor'.

Our interest in this topic lies in the fact that, three years ago, we started a graduate recruitment programme, which we believe has been very successful.

At Pinewood, we make and implement dealership management systems. Up until we introduced our graduate programme, we had a simple philosophy regarding the people we employed; we liked to recruit people who had worked in dealerships.

The thinking behind this was sound, and still is. We believed that people who had worked at the rock face had an understanding of dealer life that simply couldn't be achieved in any other way.

This philosophy took our company a long way - from a minor player in our market to the number three slot in sales, currently vying for number two, as well as, we believe, the number one position in terms of innovation and product. Our people achieved this.

But we also became aware that there was a gap in our capabilities. In a sense, we were too dealer-focussed, and I certainly include myself in that statement. We needed people who could also help us think outside the box if we were to progress further.

The leaders of our company sat down three years ago and tried to come up with a solution to this problem. And we decided to start our graduate recruitment programme, mostly recruiting slightly older graduates with business-orientated degrees.

We have now taken on nine graduates. They enter a four-phase, four-year career development programme designed to equip them with the skills and experience needed to make a genuine contribution to Pinewood in the future.

And their impact on our business is starting to be seen. The experience and know-how of people who have years of experience in dealerships is still central to how Pinewood operates - and we still continue to take on board new people almost every month with this kind of background as the company continues to expand.

But our graduates bring something different to the mix. They have some knowledge of dealerships but are not limited to that knowledge, and habitually think on a broader canvas. Together with our dealership people, they are helping us to create an approach that is both innovative and pragmatic, which we believe is an enviable balance.

Our conclusion is this: for a company targeting genuine growth, there is no substitute for extensive experience in your market but experience alone will only take you so far. You must also be willing to learn from a wider world, and our graduates will play a key part in helping us plan our assault for the number one slot in our sector.

Plus, referring back to the survey, it must be said that any employer who takes on any employee -graduate or otherwise - without first checking that their literacy, numeracy and communication skills are up to scratch - gets everything that they deserve."

Neville Briggs. managing director, Pinewood Computer Solutions.

#AM_ART_SPLIT# Graduates 'fail' as employees

Graduate recruits are labelled as only 'mediocre' in a national survey of over 4,000 firms.

More than half of employers questioned in a national survey by the Forum of Private Business (FPB) regard graduates they employed as either 'average' to 'poor' in terms of numeracy and literacy. And just under half rated their oral skills too as 'average' to 'poor'.

The survey by the FPB, which champions the cause of more than 25,000 firms nationwide, revealed that employers rated graduate recruits even more scathingly in terms of their overall readiness for the workplace.

Over half of employers thought graduates were 'average' to 'poor' when it came to time keeping or taking a phone message, and 72% graded graduates as either 'average' or 'poor' when assessing their ability to address a letter properly.

Meanwhile over 39% rated graduates' standards of general courtesy towards colleagues or customers as 'average' to 'poor'.

"This shows that basic educational and social skills of graduates - who should be the educational cream of our younger generation - are mediocre when it comes to them being prepared for earning a living," said the FPB's chairman Len Collinson, who is the owner-manager of a number of small companies.

"It is worrying to see that the lack of basic skills is not just confined to school leavers. It supports our view that universities should provide real opportunities for students to learn about preparing for the world of work."

August 22, 2005

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