The good news is that graduates are finding work, but the bad news is that, for many of them, it is not in their chosen field. A new study from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) indicates that almost half of recent grads are working in fields that do not even require a degree. According to the survey, 47% of new graduates hold non-graduate jobs, in stark contrast to the 39% of graduates in the same position in 2008, before the financial crisis.
“Despite signs of a wider job recovery, the pick-up in the graduate jobs market has been less pronounced,” says Andrew Hunter, co-founder of the job board Adzuna. “In the face of fierce competition, many graduates are being forced to take on lower-skilled jobs. Our last jobs report found that there were more than 50 graduates competing for every entry level job in September. Advertised graduate salaries fell 3.4% compared to last September, and our latest data shows graduate vacancies have fallen 19% in the past year to October.”
“These figures further highlight the plight of young people in the jobs market at present,” says John Philpott, Director of The Jobs Economist forum and consultancy. “The fact that the unemployment rate for recent graduates (9%) is much lower than for non-graduates is due simply to the fact that almost half of those who have recently gained higher education qualifications are entering jobs for which they are over-qualified, which makes it even harder for the less qualified to find work.”
Victoria McLean, Managing Director of City CV suggests, “City CV’s graduate clients are securing roles, which is great. We do advise that they spread their net wide and apply for as many roles in their target field as they can, whilst also considering ‘similar’ fields too. Unfortunately with competition for those few jobs at an all-time high, it has to be a numbers game to a certain extent.”
The ONS figures suggested that graduates have a better chance of finding work than candidates without higher education on their CV; “the public sector is by far our biggest employer of graduate skills,” adds Philpott, “but is currently in the process of major job downsizing.”
Steve Radley is Director of Policy at manufacturers’ organisation EEF, and he believes that more should be done to encourage students towards fields of study that will yield employment: “We need a concerted effort to get more young people studying the science and engineering degrees that will drive our economy forward, and more of them taking up well paid job opportunities.”
Earning prospects are still better for graduates than non-graduates, posits the study; annual salaries for graduates tend to increase fairly quickly as the individual becomes more of an expert in their industry.