New research conducted by graduate job website Totaljobs has shown that nearly 40% of graduates are still job-hunting six months after graduating, whilst a quarter are still unemployed after one year. Given these statistics, is there hope for graduate jobs in the current economy?
Despite a fall in total unemployment to 7.1%, as reported by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) in late January 2014, the survey found that almost half of all graduates questioned wished they had stayed away from academic courses and opted for “something more vocational” instead. Indeed, a report published by the ONS in 2013 found that 47% of graduates employed within six months were working in jobs that did not require a degree.
This view has been supported by Mike Fetters, the director of Totaljobs, who said: “Although a degree is an essential qualification for some industries, school leavers need to think more carefully about which route to employment is best for them as some may be more suited to an apprenticeship scheme.”
However the problem for current students and study leavers is not simply finding graduate employment, it goes beyond this to the endemic problem of youth unemployment in the UK. Statistics released in February 2014 show that in October-December 2013, 917,000 young people aged 16-24 were unemployed. Although this is down by 58,000 on the previous year, many job seekers are having to work in long unpaid internships just to get their foot on the career ladder. Those who have taken the vocational route may not be much better off either, as government figures show that a fifth of apprentices are paid below a measly £2.68 per hour.
This intense competition in the labour market has created an effect where those with graduate degrees are working in lower skilled jobs, and those who would have formerly taken these positions are further squeezed out of the labour market.
However it is not all doom and gloom; resilience seems to be the key when applying for graduate roles. The ‘Students Have Your Say’ survey conducted in mid-February, found that graduates applied for, on average, 12 positions before landing a job. For graduates who have been meticulously preparing their perfect CV for months, 12 applications may not seem so bad.
Companies are also committed to creating jobs for graduates, with BT recently announcing they will be creating 100 new graduate jobs in East Anglia as part of a wider national recruitment drive.
Alan Percy, head of counselling at the University of Oxford, reminds graduates that: “The key thing is to look at how you can keep encouraging yourself and how other people can encourage you. Make sure you look after yourself. Rejections can feel personal, but remember that employers really know nothing about you other than what is on your CV. Don’t allow it to undermine your confidence.”