It began with a letter from Kirsty O’Connor, one of our students, to PR Week (23 March 2007): ‘Forget English grads and hire PR students’ was the magazine’s summary. It was followed by a letter from Mark Ramsdale of the CIPR to the same paper (30 March) (‘PR degrees should be a recruitment must’). It then spilled into a blog debate.
I won’t speak up for what we teach PR students at university (I obviously have a vested interest). But I’ll say this. I’ve visited 55 organisations in the past few years to assess the performance of placement year students in a full-time working environment. On each occasion, I’ve listened to supervisors giving their feedback on the students’ performance.
I’ve sometimes heard criticisms of their writing skills; more recently, I’ve occasionally heard some comments on a lack of initiative. (I’ve also sometimes blogged about these problems.)
But I’ve much more frequently heard high praise (sometimes effusive praise) of their performance. On several occasions permanent job offers have arisen. Degree courses pose a range of problems; the working environment offers a different set of challenges. I’m always humbled to find how frequently our students can cope with and exceed expectations in the workplace. But then the jobs market (even the placement year jobs market) is a competitive place. Opportunity for all does not equate to success for all.