A quarter of students set to graduate in 2011 (23 per cent) have already been offered employment after taking part in work experience or an internship while studying.

The university’s qualitative study polled 513 students, from a representative group, before they graduated this year. The results revealed that, more and more, graduates needed to demonstrate their skills in a real work environment to be offered a post, as employers operated a strategy of “try before you buy”.

One in seven (15 per cent) graduates that have already secured employment after leaving university this year used a network of family and friends to secure a position. In addition, universities are increasingly sourcing positions for students, often via alumni networks, as 13 per cent of graduates gained their job via this route.

However, 28 per cent of those graduating from university in 2011 have decided to postpone entering the workforce and are investigating postgraduate study. And 13 per cent of graduates decided to go traveling upon graduation rather than enter the workforce straight after leaving university.

Elly Sample, director of marketing, communications and development at the University of Lincoln, said the university had a strategy to equip students with the skills employers want.

“This strategy resulted in 93 per cent of our graduates at the end of the 2009/10 academic year being in employment or further study six months later. This places us above the national university sector averages of 90 per cent (employment or further study) and 64 per cent graduate level employment.”

She said that universities had an obligation to ensure students improved not only academically, but that they also developed the skills that were vital in the workplace.

“With increased competition in the job market, it is vital that students embrace all aspects of university life, building a range of transferable skills to support their academic endeavors. We see students who have taken the time to complete dedicated work experience, or internships, in their chosen field boosting their employability considerably,” she said.