Business and the British undergraduate

Updated: Dec 30, 2018

In this article, Carl Stephen Patrick Hunter discusses how British business can do more to support those who graduate from our Universities.

We live in complex times - but not as complex as some believe. It is often said that Government must do more to support business - in fact, Government is.

In 25 years in business, often travelling to 30-40 countries annually, I have never seen a time as I do now when Government is “ahead of business”, as it is in many areas. Government is doing more strategic thinking than ever before. Whether in the Industrial Strategy from BEIS, the Export Strategy from DIT, the Environment Strategy or the Department for Transport’s 30 year Maritime 2050 Strategy, we are now at a stage when we can apply these at the operational level in business.

We have arrived at a time when business leaders might better support and communicate with government too, asking not always what Government might do for business, but what it might do for Government and nation. Business CEO’s need to become “HMG focals” to complement the work of HMG so as to explain to their company teams what support is available to their businesses from Government.

In education, we are producing some of the brightest graduates we have ever done. They follow a rich tradition of fine world-class education that we have, and this has become a significant export in itself. They follow in a national tradition which has produced more Nobel Prizes for science at one Cambridge College than the entire nation of a partner allied nation who I will not name, but whose victory over our Navy celebrates annually!

So whilst the world recognises our brilliance, might the wider business world not access this talent pool at an earlier stage then we tend to? The opportunities for bright undergraduates to work with business whilst at university are high, and we devised a special internship programme to do just this. My company exports 89% of its output to 108 countries. 40% of our exports go to Asia, 10% to the Middle East, 15% to the EU, 17% to the USA and the balance to South America and Africa. We work with 4 UK Universities. For over 5 years we have had as many as 20-25 undergraduates working with us annually. Typically they work with us for 6-8 hours per week term-time and a little more during the Christmas and Easter holidays.

They are paid weekly to reinforce the connection between work and reward. On Thursday evenings they are encouraged to write a short report summarising their work. Those who do so consistently over two years secure two things: their First class Degree and their first career choice too. Of the 20-25 part-time undergraduates, we offer five of them an 8-week, full-time paid summer internship. On graduation, one of them is recruited for a full-time position with us. To secure the initial part-time position with us undergraduates have to complete seven hours of written tests and two hours of interviews. Generally they stay with us for two years at university, and this enables them to contribute to business, generate income during their studies and make their university experience more meaningful. It dramatically improves their employment opportunities. Because we work with senior departmental leadership at the universities to implement these programmes, it also increases undergraduate understanding of their Professors and senior academic staff.

We have seen remarkably committed undergraduates pass through this programme. We generally ask undergraduates to focus on their exams from the April/May period, but I recall three recent undergraduates who continued working with us through their Finals, despite our cautionary notes. So sure-footed were they that all three achieved their Firsts and their first career choices too. The very best of British undergraduates are the best I have ever seen in my career.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author.

Mr Carl Stephen Patrick Hunter is a graduate of Durham and Sandhurst, a former Green Jacket Officer in the British Army and CEO of Coltraco Ultrasonics, a high exporting  manufacturer. Hi is highly active in Westminster, being an active Member of CLWCA, a Vice Chairman Membership of Marylebone Ward and Executive Committee Member Conservative Foreign & Commonwealth Council. He is also a member of the Chairman’s Business Advisory Council at CCHQ and of the Business & Entrepreneurs Group.