July 28, 2008 | by  |
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Tobacco company looking for students, University says “free choice”

VicCareers, a University service that provides career education and information for current students and graduates, has defended its decision to accept an advertisement from a tobacco company, saying that the service “does not judge a [graduate]’s career choice or make [choices] on their behalf.”

In June, a number of students and graduates received an email from CareerHub, the online system operated by VicCareers. “The [British American Tobacco] Global Management Trainee Programme 2009 is now open to students/graduates with a strong desire to learn and quickly take up the challenged and responsibility of the corporate environment,” the email read.

British American Tobacco is the world’s most international tobacco group, operating in more countries than any other tobacco company.

According to the University’s Director of Student Services, Ruth Moorhouse, only one student had expressed disapproval at the advertisement. “In the past, we’ve had several complaints about recruitment by the Armed Forces, spy agencies, breweries and oil companies.”

While VicCareers would “most definitely” decline advertisements from illegal operations and organisations which were clearly not credible, Moorhouse said that the service “provides [students] with the available options and respects each individual’s decision to apply or not.”

To place an advertisement at VicCareers, organisations are required to comply with the 1993 Human Rights Act and be clear about the employment being offered.

“Every effort is made by VicCareers’ staff to ensure they are bona fide organisations,” Moorhouse said.

Since January this year, approximately 4500 students have used the VicCareers service. Moorhouse was unable to provide an indication of the number of students who had responded to the advertisement placed by British American Tobacco, explaining that the service advertised jobs but was not involved in the application or interview processes.

When contacted by Salient last week, a representative from British American Tobacco said that recruitment for university graduates had ended for the year.

Salient was informed that the company targeted particular universities in print and on its website, as well as through the respective universities. “[Where we recruit] is based on the people we want to hire,” the representative said.

“For example, we tend to look to Wellington for corporate affairs roles or Auckland for marketing roles and things like that,”

“We have our own unique challenges… Our pool of potential employees is smaller than other companies. But once people realise that we are a responsible organisation… that we are socially responsible, the people who work for us are very happy.”

The University’s health service, Student Health, promotes non-smoking as a healthy lifestyle choice. “[It’s] no different from most, if not all, primary health care providers,” Moorhouse said.

However, she added: “Health professionals at Student Health may be uncomfortable at a personal level with the choice of working for a tobacco company as a career pathway, but like VicCareers, they respect the individual’s freedom of choice with regard to career options.”

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