What’s in a graduate recruitment programme?

How one firm attracts and hires students who are about to graduate from third level

 

Professional services firm PwC runs one of the largest graduate training programmes in Ireland and, this year, are recruiting over 300 graduates across all parts of the business throughout their offices in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Kilkenny, Limerick, Waterford and Wexford.

Sarah Madigan, graduate recruitment lead at PwC, says that they are looking for enterprising, passionate and bright people from all backgrounds, courses and disciplines. What does this really mean? “It means that we are looking at people who are well-rounded, not just academically but also socially,” she says. “They may have been involved in extracurricular activities at college, whether that’s through a society such as drama, music or debating, a sports club or volunteer work. We want people who can build a rapport well and have good knowledge of current affairs.”

PwC hires graduates straight out of college from a mix of different courses. “Most come from undergraduate courses, although we do have some who will join us after a postgraduate,” Madigan explains. “The career path here is paved with opportunities and real responsibilities. We take a blended approach to learning and development, combining formal training, coaching from others and, most importantly, practical on-the-job experience. You will gain a range of transferable business, personal, technical and communication skills that help you grow. There is a heavy emphasis on training and the majority of those on our programme sign up for a three or three and a half year training contract with us. There is no minimum time which they have to stay with us after this, although we would hope that, following the end of the contract, they would want to stay with us.”

Trainees at PwC are assigned a coach who gives them feedback and guidance for their career, and the firm has a dedicated learning and development department. Recently qualified staff also act as mentors and sources of support for new recruits.

Madigan says that there are many benefits to working in the PwC global network of firms including the opportunity to travel. “There are opportunities for local and global secondments within the firm as well as externally with our clients.”

The graduate recruitment intake is diverse and PwC prides itself on equality in the workplace, with support networks for LGBTI staff, 37 different nationalities in its Irish operations and a “Lean In” speaker series to support women in the workplace.

The company runs a number of corporate social responsibility projects which staff can get involved in and these include work with educational disadvantage charity Camara, teaching children about enterprise and work in local schools, and supporting the St Vincent de Paul; staff can also ask for backup if there is a particular organisation that they want to support.

For all these positive aspects, some reviews of PwC, and other major firms on recruitment and company review website Glassdoor.ie, say that the workload can be very heavy across many of their global operations. “You’ll work hard at PwC, but we offer balance and flexibility too,” says Madigan. “One of the perks is our flexible 3pm finish on Fridays during summer and on bank holiday weekends. We have a 24-hour gym on site and a wellness centre for everyone to enjoy. There are lots of social aspects to the role and we try to be as flexible as we can if someone has extracurricular or family commitments. On top of this, we offer up to three months of study leave for some of the final exams.”

Other firms offer similar benefits, and it’s clear that graduate recruiters are now offering large carrots in an effort to attract the best talent. And we may have reached a point where the best talent can take their pick of graduate recruitment programmes. So what’s PwC’s pitch for the cream of the crop?

“We have chances to travel, to learn, to be yourself, to get involved in corporate social responsibility projects and to develop and grow,” says Madigan.

– Applications are open for PwC’s 2017 graduate programme at pwc.ie/graduate.