Jobless graduates are being urged by employers to take on temporary or lower skilled work and wait for the right position rather than returning to education. With top up fees of £3000 extra to pay a year, graduates of 2009 will be leaving university the most indebted ever. Entering the job market during a recession has already hit many graduates hard and the future seems uncertain for successive university leavers.
A Guardian investigation last month revealed widespread fears about the graduate job market, with some employers restricting recruitment to just 5 top universities. A survey of the graduate job market by the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) showed that the number of graduate vacancies has fallen for the first time in 6 years. They polled 250 companies including Barclays, Cadburys and Google and found, overall, a 28% cut in vacancies with a 5% projected drop since last summer.
Nearly 65% of the firms cutting vacancies have blamed the recession, for which they also lay blame to graduate salaries being frozen at an average of £25,000 a year. The lowest salaries are in the fields of retail, industrial companies and public sector employers. Here, they begin at £22,500 which is 4,500 less than the average graduate salary.
With unemployment rates among 18-24 year olds growing the fastest, it’s not surprising that pessimism has spread though the so-called “crunch generation.” A poll by High Fliers Research, an independent market research company specialising in graduate recruitment, revealed that out of a poll of 1000 students only 13% of finalists are confident they’ll get the job they want after graduation, whilst half think that they’ll have to take any job they’re offered. This includes lower skilled menial work.
‘If you graduate in 2009 and don’t get your perfect job, you might do better in 2010 if you use your time properly in between’
Carl Gilleard, the chief executive of the AGR said in the Guardian last week that “we have to face the fact that this is going to be a difficult year. Almost any work is better than not working at all. If you graduate in 2009 and don’t get your perfect job you might do better in 2010 if you use your time properly in between.” Employers agree, with two thirds believing that temporary paid employment would help graduates more in the future job market than returning to university for further study. According to the AGR study, employers thought of today’s graduates as “not having the skills they are looking for” with over half of them having to look abroad for job candidates.
However, it’s not all bad news for graduates. 1 in 6 employers- mainly in the fields of law and banking- offer starting salaries of more than £35,000. There are also still a quarter of graduate recruitment programmes paying more than £30,000, the High Fliers research found.
Government ministers are also stepping in with plans for a national internship scheme to help graduates gain work experience during the recession. 25 million pounds has been given to universities to re-skill people who lose their jobs and they are independently setting up schemes to help this years graduates.
The advice given by Wilma Matinell, the President of the Association for Graduate Careers and Advice Service is to apply early, ensure plenty of mock interviews and “broaden the pool you are looking in, look at other options.” David Lammy, the Higher Education Minister has commented that “there are still jobs out there for graduates, even this year there will be more vacancies in areas such as engineering, public services and law. People considering applying to university should do so. A degree can help you not only get your first job, but also throughout a career.