Salad days no more for UK graduates

Britain's brightest young talent will find it a lot tougher to get a decent job this year...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Britain’s top graduates have had it pretty easy in recent years, as City firms have battled for their services using ever-bigger cash incentives – but in 2009, with the economy deep in recession, it’ll be a very different story. The Association of Graduate Recruiters reports today that graduate vacancies will be down by 5.4% this year, with around half of British companies taking on fewer grads than last year. And even those who do get a job shouldn’t expect to be enticed with a bigger wad of cash...

It’s the first time since 2003, in the aftermath of the dotcom slump, that employers have predicted a fall – last year, even with the credit crunch looming, they were expecting an 11% rise. And guess what: 65% suggested this was directly or indirectly a result of the downturn (perhaps the other 35% just didn’t understand the question). Equally predictably, much of the drop was due to the City, with investment banking jobs down by nearly 30%.

Nonetheless, this doesn’t seem to have had much of an impact on the starting salaries that graduates can expect. The AGR is bemoaning the fact that the median salary is likely to stay frozen at last year’s figure of £25,000 – but this doesn’t sound too bad to us. Given that more people are going after fewer jobs, you might think that salaries should be coming down – yet graduate lawyers will still trouser a crunch-busting £37,000 a year, while several sectors are even expecting average salaries to go up.

So how do graduates escape the gloom? Well, not panic, for a start. A fall in vacancies is clearly bad, but 5% is a relatively small drop given the financial upheaval of recent months – smaller than 2003, in fact, which suggests employers have learned the hard way not to slash graduate recruitment too deep, too soon. They can follow the AGR’s practical suggestions, like making sure they research their employer of choice thoroughly and get their application is as early as possible. Or they might even think about applying for jobs in the public sector, which is predicting more vacancies (fancy that) or in engineering, which is expecting to face a shortage of candidates.

Interestingly, the biggest no-no for employers is an option that’s growing in popularity: postgraduate study. It seems like an obvious move when the job market is tough, but just 30% of employers thought it would boost candidates’ employability. And they were similarly sceptical about ‘years out’, suggesting that getting some kind of job was much more sensible. In other words, the downturn is no excuse for dossing...

In today's bulletin:
Crosby falls on sword after HBOS whistleblower row
Unemployment up again as Bank admits 'deep recession'
Ashley makes approach for Blacks
Salad days no more for UK graduates
Editor's blog: Pontificating in Portmeirion

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