Uncertainty in 2018: what’s out there for graduates and start-ups

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It’s now a few weeks into 2018, and many upcoming graduates and start-up businesses will be wondering what the year has in store for them.

But with factors such as Brexit, an uncertain economy, and more recently, a number of large firms such as Monarch and Carillion heading into administration, the future may seem a little difficult.

However, there are still many opportunities for those looking for their first big role, or wanting to break into a certain industry.

In a statement to the CBI, Fenella Grey, managing director of Porter Novelli London, explained that employers can do their part in advertising what they can do for younger people.

She said: “The fact that the reputation of business has improved over the past months despite a backdrop of uncertainty caused by Brexit and slowing economic growth is really positive news for the UK.

“What is really unexpected is that this positive shift in opinion occurred amongst millennials who in reality have the greatest number of reasons to be unhappy, as they will be working with an uncertainty created by a Brexit the majority of them didn’t want.

“Over the last six months this tracker has revealed an interesting change in what drives people to think positively about business, and it’s all about people.

“Businesses need to see that the better you regard your employees, the better the public regard you.”

In a recent letter to members of the CBI, Director general Carolyn Fairbairn added: “We need more practical action to support innovation in 2018.

“We will work with businesses and universities to improve the UK’s approach to commercialising the leading-edge research we deliver so successfully.

“At the same time, action is needed to ensure companies adopt tried and tested technologies that will move the dial on productivity.”

A number of universities are now more than ever attempting to get students to work with professionals and employers from the start of their courses, and not towards the end.

The University of Brighton, for example, holds a number of career fairs in different departments.

Sam Rhodes, head of the careers service said: “We had 3,000 students at an event in November, so that’s our big one.

“During the year, and especially after Christmas, we have a number of course-based careers fairs, where we have employers coming in from one sector, so we’ve got a built-in environment, where students can meet budding employers.

“We’ve got the same for engineers, we’ve got the same for the computing students, we’ve got the same for the pharmacy students.”

Rhodes also explained to Business Matters how, while a lot of graduate based opportunities are centred in London, there are opportunities in other areas, including on the South coast.

He said: “Sussex, Hampshire and Kent aren’t as good as other areas like London, but we do have a lot of graduate-level jobs.

“A lot of our courses at Brighton are helping students go into the public sector, for example, health, sciences, nurses, medicine, and we also have a lot of students going into teaching, which are all professional managerial level jobs.

“In the last three or four years, we’ve had a rise in the number of vacancies for computing, in digital media, marketing, and in marketing now employers are looking for people with social media skills.

“Our challenge at the university is to get students employed earlier in using the careers service, because there are so many vacancies they’re not accessing.”

Business Matters also spoke to Luke Mitchell, an entrepreneurship advice manager at the university, who explained about a number of trends he was seeing with start-ups, and some of the work students are developing this year.

Mitchell said: “There’s a definite theme this year around well-being, there’s lots of people developing products to help with wellbeing.

“I think there’s been a lot in the media about mental health over the last year or so, and we’ve got a lot of students coming forward with ideas to try and solve that problem.

“Amongst the computing students that we’ve got, I would say the majority of them are interested in VR at the moment.

“I think people are always more interested in the next big thing and emerging spaces. There’s a long way to go still in developing solutions in that area.”

Luke also had this advice for up and coming businesses.

He added: “Ensure that you know your value proposition. So, what is the value that you are going to be offering your customers, how does it solve a problem in their lives? If you’re not solving a problem, you’re not going to be finding any new customers.

“Rather than spending too long getting stuck in planning mode, get out there as soon as you can and test your idea with customers and see what they think of it, because the proof is in the pudding, and until you get out there, and find out what they want and don’t want, you’re not going to have a sellable product.

“So test ideas, get feedback and make changes.

“I think it’s really important to make as many connections as you can, and really make use of every opportunity that you meet somebody to tell them what you do, because to build up your network you have to think of the long-term.”