A letter from Italy

Oct 8, 2020 | Sector & policy

An insight to student recruitment in Italy from Francesca Saracino, Head of Career Service, Politecnico di Milano University.

I was born and raised in the US, but have lived most of my adult life in Italy. Since 2013, I have managed the Career Service at Politecnico di Milano, Italy’s top university for studies in engineering, architecture and design with over 45,000 students enrolled.

I am writing this article as we are hit by a scary storm: the coronavirus. While our lives change and momentarily freeze, still I choose to bring you a portrait of the Italian education system and job market before Covid-19:

Graduates hold masters: In Italy most Bachelor graduates continue their studies to obtain a Master’s degree, thus entering the job market when they are 26. This percentage is declining, as students become interested in diversifying their education.

Theory vs. practical experience: Many Italian graduates enter the job market without an internship and students tend to think about their careers towards the end of their studies. This is not by chance: the focus at universities is traditionally more on theory. Things are changing and our university has introduced company-led courses, project-based learning, alumni mentoring, etc. However, most employers we work with say they are very satisfied with the level of education at the Politecnico, precisely because the academic knowledge is solid and thorough and, although lack of practice may penalise graduates at the beginning of their careers, their strong foundation is a true advantage in the long run.

Accessible education: Education in Italy is good quality and accessible: university tuition is on average 1,000 euros per year. One thing that penalises universities is the student/faculty ratio. In other words, public universities are not allowed to hire the number of professors they need for the students they must serve (public education is a right that cannot be denied).

No recruitment season: Graduations are spread throughout the academic year, therefore fresh graduates enter the market all year long, there is no specific ‘recruitment season’.

Engineers wanted: The job market presents a high demand for engineers across all sectors, especially software engineers, and universities are not able to satisfy it. At the Politecnico, last year 300 computer engineers had around 5,000 job offers to choose from.

Small companies: Italy is a country of specialised SMEs, often family-run, so many graduates start their career in a small company and never leave it. At the same time, small businesses find it harder to retain talent and update their skillsets. Recently they have begun to do employer marketing on campus. At the Politecnico we hold a job fair for around 100 small employers.

Inclusion: Italy is not a mature market for diversity and there is still a long way to go. Nevertheless, it is currently a priority for many top managers. The main goal for educators and the establishments is to attract more women into STEM studies.

Corporate relations: although historically universities in Italy have been distant from the needs of businesses, Politecnico represents an exception and other universities are now following our way. We finance our career services 100% through employer partnerships. We offer consultancy on how to target and attract the right students. We then develop and deliver digital and on-campus employer branding projects that also respond to students’ needs.


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