Despite the gloomy graduate forecast told by tabloid papers, research by top players in Higher Education tell a different story of the graduate labour market for 2014. The future is bright - or at least brighter than last year.
According to High Fliers - a specialist research company which analyses graduate starting salaries at the UK's 100 best known employers, there are many reasons to be cheerful.
Graduate vacancies have increased by 2.5% with leading UK employers expecting to recruit more graduates in 2014. The biggest rise in graduate recruitment seen in four years, this increase will see more opportunities for 2014 graduates than there have been since the beginning of the rececession - good news.
The biggest growth in vacancies was expected to be seen in the following areas so keep your eyes peeled for opportunities in:
- public sector acounting,
- professional service firms
- investment banks
- industrial companies
- Teach First will be the largest recruiter in the public sector, offering a total of 1,550 vacancies. PwC follows closely behind with 1,200 vacancies, and Deloitte last but not least with 1,000 vacancies to offer this year's graduates.
How graduate employment takes shape
If you get a chance for work experience, snap it up. Surveys show this has been the key way to secure a graduate foot in the door. 37% of this year's enty-level positions will be filled by graduates who have already worked for their organisation.
"Ways in" to employment include paid internships, industrial placements or work during the holidays.
According to High Fliers, the starting salaries for graduates employed by the UK's leading graduates employers is expected to remain at £29,00 - a salary unchanged in five years.
A lucky quarter of top graduate programmes will pay new staff more than £35,000, and ten organisations will be offering handsome ransoms of at least £40,000.
Unsurprisingly, the most generous salaries will paid by:
- Investment banks (median of £45,000)
- law firms (median of £39,000)
- banking & finance firms (median of £33,000)
- oil & energy companies (median of £32,500)
The lowest starting salaries were expected to be paid to public sector employees (median salary at £22,400), recruits to the Armed Forces (median salary at £25,000) and by retail companies (median salary at £25,000).
The highest published graduate starting salaries for 2014 are at the European Commission (£41,500) and retailer Aldi (£41,000).
The ten universities most-often targeted by Britain’s top graduate employers in 2013-2014 are: Nottingham, Manchester, Cambridge, Oxford, Bristol, Bath, Warwick, Leeds, Imperial College London University College London.
Ditch the directories
Don't worry if you are not at one of the top ten targeted universities. Employers are becoming more accessible via the web and through skills training. Research suggests getting onto the top 100 employers social media twitter feed, facebook or webpage - this year has seen a change in employer recruitment behaviour and they are no longer just to be sought out at careers fairs.
More employers than ever before have been seen to promote graduates vacancies through social media, or through delivering skills training through the university careers services. Fewer are seen to be advertising in graduates directories, sector guides and local guides.
Try and get work experience, if you can! High Fliers report that more than 50% of employers warned that graduates needed previous work experience. Those without were much less likley to be successful during selection processes, and had little chance of receiving a job offer on their graduate programmes.
That's the top 100. What about everyone else?
AGCAS, the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services, carries out its own survey. Quite different to High Fliers, it includes the employers that HE careers services work closely with and advertise vacancies for. This means is includes large, small and medium size organisations, and employers from all sorts of sectors including small businesses and not for profit sector and charities.
So, what do they have to say?
AGCAS interviewed employers and found that 80% of those who responded thought the graduate labour market was the same or more bouyant than the prevous quarter, and a jolly 60% that it was more bouyant than at the same time in the previous year.
Shortages and openings
AGCAS found that employers reported skills shortages in IT and engineering as well as increased activity in the following areas:
- fast moving consumer goods (FMCG)
Tips and advice
Visit your careers service, especially if you have no idea what to do next.
And, from the big boss at AGCAS, here is advice for the 2014 graduate:
"It's important to be sensible about the state of the job market. These are challenging times for graduates, but there are jobs available. To secure one of them, it's important to demonstrate that you have the knowledge and skills employers are seeking. Work experience, voluntary work and getting involved in student life can all provide you with the proof you'll need. Build up evidence throughout your time as a student and when you first leave university.
Make sure you know what your careers and employability service has on offer, ideally right from the beginning of your time at university.
Another tip is to be flexible. Have a plan B. Don't think exclusively about large organisations. There are fantastic opportunities with smaller companies, but they don't have the huge marketing budgets of the big employers and so you need to be creative about your job search. Again, your careers service is a good starting point.
If you have already graduated, check out what your university careers service offers - many will still support you even after you have left. If they don't offer this service then Google the National Careers Service and see what they offer in your region." Anne-Marie Martin, AGCAS President