Mixed messages in the media about the job market for graduates are streaming in daily. While I was away last week, Holly, one of our Information Managers wrote a great blog post on our Manchester Graduate Blog which discusses what’s behind the press releases which hit the headlines, so I’ve included it here, with the addition of a couple of new items which have dropped into our in-boxes in the last 24 hours.
From “Manchester Graduate Careers“, 7th July 2010
“The last week has seen dozens of news stories reporting among other things that 10% of graduates are unemployed, that male UK graduates are ‘hopeless’ and that you might as well give up unless you got a 2:1 or better. You could be forgiven for thinking that you haven’t a chance of finding a job (especially if you are male and got a 2:2 or lower!).
These stories are the news outlets interpretations of recently released surveys and research.
Surveys reflect the opinion of a small number of repondents at a certain time. For example an Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) survey is reponsible for the figure that 78% of their members required a minimum of a 2:1. Apparantly this survey was conducted in May with only 200 employers. Several of my colleagues have just returned from a conference run by the very same AGR where many members were talking of dropping their entry requirements as they had unfilled positions which goes to show that even within the AGR there are different opinions.
It is also worth remembering that the AGR represents big graduate recruiters with graduate schemes. The vast majority of graduates do not get jobs with these companies and never have done. AGR does not include small and medium sized businesses or organisations in the public and not-for-profit sectors. Many graduates also get one-off advertised jobs rather than places on a graduate scheme.
Several positive messages in the same survey were ignored by the news outlets. For example recruiters in finance and accountancy anticipate a significant increase in vacancies.
The research showing that male graduates have a higher rate of unemployment than female graduates is based on data from the 2008 graduating class (so is not very current anyway) indicates that there is a 6% gap between the genders. The report speculates on a host of reasons why this might be the case – none of which are that the men in question are hopeless and most of which can be addressed through support from your Careers Service.
The job market is tight for graduates, but there are jobs out there. You have to apply to be in with a chance! It is (as always) important to make strong applications, if you don’t demonstrate what you can do you are likely to be passed over in favour of someone who has.”
My latest update – which survey to believe?
As well as Careers Service staff attending the AGR conference (to find out directly from employers what they’re thinking and planning), we’ve also been in contact with Martin Birchall, managing director of High Fliers Research, another main source of stories about the graduate job market. Their survey reports have been much more upbeat, showing increases in graduate vacancies since last year.
There are differences in the way the AGR and High Fliers surveys are conducted, with High Fliers focusing primarily on the very large organisations who plan to recruit, on average, 150-200 graduates per year, whereas the AGR survey also includes many employers who recruit 25 or fewer graduates per year.
However, even where they’re covering similar types of employers, such as investment banking, there are widely differing results. High Fliers’ report indicated that investment banks were expecting a 30% increase in recruitment, year on year, whereas the AGR survey indicated a 9.3% drop in recruitment to investment banks. (I’ll just have to leave you to decide whether you believe anything the investment banks say…)
Not just “graduate schemes”
Of course, neither of these survey groups reflects the fact that the majority of postgraduates work for organisations who recruit one or two graduates or specialist postgraduates a year, and don’t have any sort of “graduate scheme”.
We don’t have any way of gauging the state of the job market for this large group of employers, but maybe one indication is the flow of vacancy ads to the Careers Service, which continues to gain pace.
(If you’ve read any of my recession posts over the last year, you’ll know the way our vacancy ads have consistently told a different, rather less negative story, compared to what you’ve read in the media, since the recession hit ).
We’ve just updated our monthly statistics, and the period August 09-June 10 shows that we’ve received over 20% more vacancy ads (for full time graduate jobs) than in the August 08-June 09 period (that is, from 3370 vacancy ads in Aug 08- Jun 09 to 4069 in Aug 09- Jun 10).
There are over 500 ads for full time jobs on our vacancy database at the moment – the job market is not completely without hope.
Public sector job market
We don’t, however, have a way of automatically tracking the public sector jobs we receive and comparing them with previous years, but we do expect that this will be badly hit, including in ways you might not anticipate.
Dr Charlie Ball from HECSU recently spoke to us about this subject and pointed out that many graduates who are unsure of which career direction to take, start out by filling one of the many general administrative posts in the public sector (local government, health service etc), before moving on to a “career” role, having gained valuable work experience. These are the jobs likely to be worst hit by public sector cutbacks so we may have a lot more graduates with minimal work experience, struggling to gain a foothold in the private sector.
You can get chapter and verse (and a whole load more – reliable – job market stats) on the HECSU blog, particularly Charlie’s recent posts on “Can I tell the future” and “Public funding cuts could leave graduates out of work“