Sunshine for graduates at last?


Is the worst over? Is the sun is about to shine for graduates? After what seems like years, could the job market be picking up at last?

New figures from the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) predicts a rise of 10.2% in vacancies for the coming 2014 recruitment round, as business confidence begins to rise. This follows a rise of 4.3% last year. Stephen Isherwood, Chief Executive of the AGR, said:

“Given the upturn in the economy, and the slight increase in graduate vacancies recorded last year, we’d expect employer predictions to be fairly buoyant for the year ahead; so an expected rise of over 10% is welcome news.

“There are some sectors — IT and Telecoms, Energy, and Banking and Financial Services — looking at double digit growth for 2014. What this doesn’t mean, however, is that graduates should be any less focussed on their career search. We know that, even through the darkest days of the recession, our members reported unfilled vacancies because they couldn’t find graduates with the right mix of skills and attributes. Graduates need to think carefully about their applications and ensure they understand what a potential employer is looking for.”

Clearly this is good news for graduates, many of whom have been struggling for some time to get some momentum behind their career. It is not easy to build this when unpaid internships and zero-hours contracts are rife and graduate salaries appear to be falling. So it is encouraging to hear that there may be more paid, permanent jobs around in the coming months.

Sectors to predict the biggest jump in vacancies between 2013 to 2014 include IT and telecoms (40%), the public sector (20%), energy (18%), and banking and financial Services (16%). As for the actual number of vacancies available in the market, accountancy and professional services, the public sector, and retail and investment banking / fund management make up the largest recruiting sectors. This survey contains responses from 202 AGR members in the UK across 19 sectors, which will provide over 23,000 graduate vacancies in 2014.

The survey also found a trend for big employers to take on school-leavers – candidates who haven’t been to university. Graduate Fog has written before about fears that graduates could be left stranded if school-leavers become the ‘hot’ recruitment trend, but for now this worry seems to be unfounded. Isherwood said:

“For many employers now, a graduate programme is only part of the picture when it comes to their emerging talent strategy [but] at the moment, it doesn’t appear that employers are replacing graduate vacancies with school-leaver vacancies; rather businesses are investing in a range of different programmes to attract and recruit a diverse range of young people — from Apprenticeships and Higher Apprenticeships, to school-leaver training leading to professional qualifications.”

Universities minister David Willetts also welcomed the good news, telling the Guardian:

“The substantial rise in the number of graduate vacancies demonstrates that confidence in the UK economy is growing and businesses really value the skills the UK’s first-rate graduates can bring to their companies.

“A degree is still one of the best routes to a good job and a rewarding career. The increased number of graduates has been met by increased demand from employers, which is why we have made the historic commitment to remove the cap on the number of people who could go to university by 2015-16.”

Graduate Fog is pleased that the predictions are so encouraging. Let’s hope this is the start of better times for the UK’s bright, hard-working graduates.

What do you make of these new figures – are things about to get easier for graduate jobseekers? Do you feel confident you will find paid, permanent work soon – or are you still worried that there seem to be too many graduates and not enough jobs? What about the ‘backlog’ of graduates that has built up in the last few years – will this year’s increase be enough to absorb them, as well as the class of 2014, set to graduate this summer?

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