Graduate jobs up for the first time since the recession

Figures suggest the graduate recruitment market has finally turned a corner. But what will be the impact of the Browne Review?

by James Taylor
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013
Some good news on graduate jobs this morning: the number of vacancies available last year was almost 9% up on the previous year, and this upward trend is apparently expected to continue in 2010/11. That's the first year-on-year rise since the start of the recession - and at a time of record youth unemployment, that's undoubtedly an encouraging sign of confidence. On the downside for graduates, salaries barely budged for the third year in a row. With the cost of going to university set to soar, if Lord Browne gets his way on tuition fees, this could lead to some interesting discussions about pay in the coming years...

The vacancy figures come from the winter edition of the biannual survey of the Association of Graduate Recruiters. Many of its members - who include some of the UK's biggest employers - unsurprisingly chose to slash their recruitment numbers in the wake of the recession to save money, but they seem to be getting their mojo back: contrary to the 6.9% drop they predicted back in the summer of last year, vacancy numbers actually climbed by a very respectable 8.9%. That's a big step in the right direction, although it's worth pointing out that all this really does is level out the big drop in vacancies in the previous year (2008/9), taking vacancy numbers back to 2007/8 levels.

Clearly some employers effectively cut too deep in the previous year; some openly admitted to the AGR that the economic situation hadn't turned out as badly as they expected. Others said that as a result of the restructuring they'd been forced into during the downturn, they'd been left with talent gaps that they needed graduates to fill. Others were more positive, though, suggesting that they needed more hands on deck because business was picking up again. But either way, it all adds up to more graduate jobs, which has to be good news.

The big question for the graduate recruitment market now is how much different the reforms of the Browne Review will make. Although this survey was carried out only just after the review was published, more than a quarter said they were planning to change their graduate recruitment practices, particularly in terms of building closer links with a wider group of universities.

Overall, recruiters don't seem too alarmed: they don't expect the funding changes to result in lower-quality degree courses or a shortage of good graduate talent, for instance. But if university becomes more expensive, they do think some changes are inevitable - including a decline in applicants from lower soci-economic backgrounds, and a rise in salary excpectations. Since average graduate salaries have been static for three years in a row now, and since employers have no apparent plans to start paying more (it is, after all, an employers' market at the moment), this could well cause some friction...

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