Graduate employment figures in context
The newly-published Destinations of Leavers of Higher Education (DLHE) data shows that 71% of 2010/11 leavers of higher education were in employment at around six months. A further 16% were in further study, with 9% assumed to be unemployed. These figures are almost unchanged from last year. The mean salary, however, has risen from c£19,000 to c£20,000. What does this mean for students and graduates? How are careers and employability services responding?
First of all, we have to consider today's figures in context. There is little doubt that the public sector in the UK is shrinking and looks like continuing to do so. For example, The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has estimated (March 2012) that 880,000 central and local government jobs will be lost by 2017. The public sector is a big employer of graduates, but the fact that the overall employment figures have barely changed suggests that many graduates are successfully finding employment elsewhere.
Some areas of the economy have given cause for cautious optimism in recent months: the retail sector has reported continuing, albeit slow, growth (ONS, June 2012); the manufacturing sector has also recently reported slow growth (CBI, June 2012); the construction sector still seems to be expanding (PMI, April 2012), albeit predominantly in the South East. We also know that most sectors are demanding a better skilled workforce. However, at this stage, it's difficult to know how many of the recently-created jobs in these sectors are going to graduates.
Graduate labour market
There are, however, a number of additional sources of information on the graduate labour market. They include the AGR and High Fliers Research surveys, both of which concentrate on large graduate employers. This year's High Fliers Research's The Graduate Market in 2012, the survey for which was conducted in December 2011, predicts:
• An increase in graduate recruitment by Britain's leading employers of 6.4%;
• Half of the surveyed employers expect to recruit more graduates in 2012 than they did in 2011, with more than another quarter maintaining their 2011 levels;
• Respondents in nine of fourteen key industries and employment areas expect to recruit more graduates in 2012;
• A third of this year's entry-level positions are expected to be filled by graduates who have already worked for their organisation (through placements, vacation work or sponsorships).
The results of AGR's summer survey are due to be published in early July 2012.
AGCAS carries out its own Quarterly Vacancy Survey, which differs from AGR and High Fliers Research in that HE careers services work closely with, and advertise vacancies for, organisations of all sizes and from all sectors. The latest survey (March 2012) showed some reasons for optimism: 80% of respondents thought the graduate labour market was the same or more buoyant than the previous quarter; and 60% that it was more buoyant than at the same time in the previous year. They reported skills shortages in IT and engineering and increased activity in retail, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), architecture and construction. The findings of the next survey will be published in late July 2012.
Looking further ahead, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has identified (March 2012) a number of sectors that are expected to contribute to the UK's longer term economic success:
• Energy (production and sale of energy, mining, renewables, etc);
• Digital and Creative Media (which includes advertising, architecture, design, digital and ICT, publishing, programming and software development);
• Professional and Business Services (including legal, finance, real estate, telecommunications, management consultancy);
• Life Sciences (including biology, medicine, anthropology, ecology, pharmaceuticals, chemicals);
• Advanced Manufacturing (design and production, engineering of high value, high technology products within industries such as aerospace, automotive, electronics, associated supply chains).
Proactive careers and employability services
Higher education careers and employability services offer a wide range of services to make sure that their students and graduates have access to a wide range of high-quality opportunities and are well-equipped to compete in the graduate labour market.
Many have been puttting additional effort into helping graduates find opportunities with small and medium-sized organisations (SMEs). There has also been a great deal of emphasis on helping students develop entrepreneurial skills, which are valued by employers and which are expected to lead to more graduates creating their own businesses. Many also broker student work experience and paid graduate internships. The recent Wilson Review of Business-University Collaboration identified all of the above as priorities for both businesses, graduates and the wider economy.
Examples of what a number of universities are doing can be viewed in careers services' response to the Wilson Review.
Advice for students and graduates
AGCAS President, Anne-Marie Martin, said:
"It's important to be sensible about the state of the job market. These are challenging times for graduates, but there are jobs available. To secure one of them, it's important to demonstrate that you have the knowledge and skills employers are seeking. Work experience, voluntary work and getting involved in student life can all provide you with the proof you'll need. Build up evidence throughout your time as a student and when you first leave university.
Make sure you know what your careers and employability service has on offer, ideally right from the beginning of your time at university. Careers services will be able to help you weigh-up your options, learn about the graduate job market, come to informed decisions - and they'll guide you towards appropriate vacancies then help you master the art of writing applications and prepare for interviews and assessment centres. But that's just the tip of the iceberg: many services broker work placements and internships, can help you set up your own business and much more. So check them out!
Another tip is to be flexible. Have a plan B. Don't think exclusively about large organisations. There are fantastic opportunities with smaller companies, but they don't have the huge marketing budgets of the big employers and so you need to be creative about your job search. Again, your careers service is a good starting point.
If you have already graduated, check out what your university careers service offers - many will still support you even after you have left. If they don't offer this service then Google the National Careers Service and see what they offer in your region.
Finally, for employers, there are a lot of very talented people available with the skills and motivation to help your business go from strength to strength. Get in touch with a local university careers service - or contact AGCAS and we'll point you in the right direction - to talk about how they can help you find a graduate trainee, intern, work placement student or even, to start with, someone to help you part-time or during holiday periods."
For further information about any of the above, contact Chris Jackson (0191 240 3525/0114 251 5750).
Created on: 26 June 2012
Last updated: 28 June 2012