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Former UCAS head urges students not to worry about jobs during study

Students should focus on their degree and apply for jobs after graduation, the former head of UCAS has said.

Mary Curnock Cook, who stepped down as Chief Executive of UCAS at the end of April, urged students and parents to avoid the unnecessary pressure of job-searching whilst still in higher education: “You have plenty of time to figure out how to be successful in the workplace, so I think obsession with graduate employment within six months is unhelpful.”

She added: “Students may need to take some down-time after the stresses of finals and dissertations. I don’t think there’s any harm in doing temporary, voluntary, or non-graduate work to fill the gap before finding something more permanent.”

Curnock Cook left school at 16 and started her career as a secretary, before rapidly climbing the corporate ladder. Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, she attributes her success to her drive and enthusiasm: “Because I was interested and prepared to put effort in, and luckily I turned out to be good at it, I progressed.”

Other industry leaders have warned that students do not have the luxury of respite following graduation.

James Uffindel, founder and CEO of Bright Network, warned: “they need to take the bull by the horns and use their time at university to explore their options and make connections to avoid being left behind after graduating.”

Curnock Cook’s words follow the release of official government figures that reveal a 2.2 percent drop in the number of 21 to 30 year-old graduates in skilled work compared to 2015. In 2016 approximately one in five graduates were in low or medium skilled jobs on average across the total working population.

Prestigious graduate schemes are notoriously oversubscribed, and a recent study by Rare Recruitment revealed that pupils from 10 elite private and grammar schools make up 3% of all applicants for 28 such programs.

The companies analysed by Rare included Barclays, Clifford Chance, and Deloitte. Of the ten schools highlighted in the study, six were single-sex, and seven were exclusively for boys prior to the age of 16.

Curnock Cook will be succeeded in July 2017 by Clare Marchant, the current Chief Executive of Worcestershire County Council.

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