As graduates face the harshest job market conditions in a decade, 54 university students that are set to graduate in 2012/2013, have seen a glimpse of the real world of work at a summer boot camp for aspiring business people, organised by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC).

Despite the rising levels of debt that graduates are facing, an overwhelming majority (95%) of first year students at PwC’s Insight Academy said they believe a degree is as valuable as ever in not only preparing them for their career but in developing their personal skills, and that they are prepared to pay whatever it costs.

Applications to the five day residential talent academy, which aims to develop employability and personal skills, have risen by 58% since last year suggesting that students are looking to build their portfolio of work experience earlier on in their career to stand out amongst fellow graduates.

Sonja Stockton, director of talent resourcing, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, said:

“Typically, first year university students don’t make the most of valuable work experience opportunities in holiday time. But the academy creates a business environment where students work together on an assignment as they would do in the real world, and as a result they can develop business insight and the kind of employability skills we are looking for.

“It’s also a chance for students to learn negotiation skills, building professional relationships and finding appropriate solutions, which are skills required for a successful business career.”

The students, from universities across the UK including Aberdeen, Cambridge, Lancaster and Exeter, participated in seminars for personal and professional development, which were assessed by PwC’s graduate recruitment team.

In a test of character and commercial flair the students navigated their fictitious international transport businesses through rising oil prices, trade unions negotiations and supply chain disruption.

Successful students from the academy will be offered a place on the firm’s summer internship programme in 2011. There is a high conversion rate (95%) for those attending PwC internships who are offered a full time job upon graduation.

The week culminated in a series of group presentations, where a Dragons’ Den style panel reviewed the performance and prospects of each company. Judges included partners from PwC alongside the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).

The PwC Talent Academy brings together expertise in assessment, recruitment, team working and personal development. It forms part of the firm’s wider student internship programme which has increased by 50% this year, and now offers places in management consultancy, advisory, assurance, tax and actuarial.

Sonja Stockton, director of talent resourcing, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, said:

“Interest in our roles from students and graduates alike is increasing because they recognise that by joining PwC they are joining a university for business. The quality of training, investment and support we provide, as well as the level of work and the variety of career opportunities available, means that we’re a breeding ground for talented business people.

Additional Information:

• 96% of students believe that despite the poor job market a degree still makes a difference to their prospects
• 24% imagine they will face a debt of £15k – £20k, while 26% will face over £20k of debt upon graduation
• 89% said they did not think twice about going to university despite the level of debt they will accrue