As university educated students exit their tertiary studies, they are confronted by a challenge thought unimaginable a generation ago: Can I get a job? Long gone are the days when the top students further their education and others need not worry, assuming that the manufacturing-driven, protectionist based economy would provide shelter.
Today, you have a degree - so what? Universities have transformed into institutions that are incentivised to maximise profitability and shareholder wealth (for G08), and these changes have come ultimately at the expense of the student. So, in this competitive environment (almost a perfectly competitive environment considering the standardisation of degrees) - where is the best place to start your career?
Demand far outstrips supply, and as such, employers can get away with paying graduates negligible salaries for low-skill work. This creates a conundrum.
A graduate fresh out of university doesn’t have many marketable skills that make you valuable to an organisation. As such, you need to be nurtured to develop into your far-reaching potential. There is a societal low-skill trap. If you enter into a job where you're given low-skill work, you will unlikely ever develop the skills to become marketable in your desired discipline.
New entrants must find companies that foster talent, give responsibility, and develop potential and drive into a set of marketable skills that you can use as a platform for the rest of your career. The first job should be the catalyst that provides the key to the locked doors currently faced.
I feel fortunate to have chosen the Suncorp graduate program, because it has unique characteristics that distinguish it from the graduate programs offered by many other companies:
Choice of rotations: Graduate programs at other large institutions place graduates in a rotation where there is business demand, irrespective of desire. In large accounting firms there are no rotations, the skill set you acquire is somewhat of a lucky dip, contingent on the team and clients you are assigned. In Suncorp, you choose where you rotate. Graduate salaries are paid centrally. As such, a graduate represents a free resource to teams within Suncorp Group. This encourages an environment where any team within the group is happy to develop a graduate. In fact, they often compete for them.
Graduates can then pick where they rotate - a luxury not offered by other graduate programs. This allows you to choose the skill set that you would like to develop based on your interests. It provides a great platform for those who know what they want to do, as you can develop a diversified set of skills across an industry. Furthermore, those that are unsure can try different options and find what truly interests them.
To cite an example, a graduate could participate in a front office treasury role and then rotate to a completely unrelated field in strategy. This broad experience across different areas allows you to develop a diversified skill set and build connections across different areas of the business to reach your end goal of employment in a high-skill position.
Responsibility: Whilst choice of rotations is a great advantage, it means nothing if you aren’t given responsibility. I've heard stories from grads in other Australian graduate programs who've reported being used as cheap labour. It's hard to argue against this allocation of labour - It's efficient. Graduates perform the lower-skill work freeing up the analysts to work on higher-skill projects. Everyone is working to their skill set, and often employers see it as a win-win. However, this is not a win for the graduate.
From this perspective, Suncorp in some way inconveniences itself to provide you with responsibility. The structure is incentivised via KPI’s linked to your graduate development. Furthermore, graduates are a free resource to teams. Teams often compete by raising the calibre of work graduates are exposed to. The result of this structure (which evenly distributes the balance of power), is that graduates gain marketable skills to add to their resume, and the employer nurtures future potential talent. A true win-win situation, because a graduate program is a monetary investment in future talent. As such, placing a graduate in low-skill work will erode that channel to future productivity growth, ultimately leading to a low return on investment.
Suncorp has many different brands: In this sense, Suncorp is somewhat unique. Suncorp is a large financial institution encompassing the fifth largest bank, the largest insurer in Australia, and a large superannuation fund. The diversity in financial services cannot be compared to the majority of other institutions, who tend to specialise in banking/accounting/marketing, etc.
As a large and highly diversified institution, the scope for potential rotations is large. Graduates have a substantially large pool of rotations to choose from in any aspect of corporate life. To give an example of the scope, I am rotating from Traded Market Risk to Group Corporate Strategy, two completely unrelated rotations that further diversify my marketable skill set. This is not commonplace in other graduate programs where you are often sanctioned off into particular departments, such as finance or marketing.
These three factors (choice, responsibility, and opportunity), work in synergy to create a truly remarkable graduate experience. The rotations that banking graduates can choose vary considerably, and in those rotations, you're given the opportunity to develop sought-after skills that lead to high skill employment. This unique blend of variables makes Suncorp’s program one of the most sought-after and competitive programs in the country. Suncorp is invested in developing new entrants, and this approach has paid countless dividends, to both Suncorp and the graduate community.
I hope you found this information helpful in your quest to find your ultimate graduate program!