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Thursday, August 20, 2015

University degree not enough

Accounting cadets Justine Radnedge and Jemma Chandler being tutored by Paul Fiumara 

Some Australian employers aren't necessarily impressed with a university degree anymore. Instead, they are picking cadets straight out of high school.

Accounting boss Paul Fiumara, a partner at Brisbane firm DFK Hirn Newey said he has stopped hiring graduates.  "There are a few problems with graduates" he said.  "They have this over-inflated view of their worth, they come out of university thinking they are ready for the world, but clients don't pay us to get some kid who doesn't understand what their needs are."

But he says it's not their fault, it's the institutions pumping them out and that's why he's stopped hiring graduates.

Graduate employment is the lowest it's been since the 1992/93 recession.

To employers like Mr Fiumara, he knows what the problem is. "Universities are just pushing people out without having more practical experience along the way."

He's employing accounting students straight out of high school and keeping them on until they complete their accounting degree.  They come out more marketable than their peers who have worked in unrelated fields like hospitality or retail.

Mr Fiumara pays his cadets a clerical rate and reviews their salary every six months. So by the time they finish their degree, they'll be earning around $10,000 more than a graduate with no real life work experience.

The median starting salary for bachelor graduates under 25 in the field of accounting is $50,000.  "With a cadet program, by the time they graduate, they've matured a lot more and are better placed to get a higher position which is where a lot of graduates expect to start without having any experienced at all" he said.

"Obviously, while we are training a first year university student, they are cheaper than a graduate, so it makes sense for us as a business too."

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Kate Carnell said "The number of young people not working while they're in school is one of the problems - parents allow them the luxury of focusing on their studies, but this deprives them of the vital work skills they need before they take up a full time role."

Universities have been accused of being "disconnected with the workforce" but there is now a push for vocational learning and encouraging internships, something they should have been doing all along.

Mr Fiumara would like to see apprentice-style training or compulsory work placements as in medical degrees, to be enforced across more industries.