The annual graduate employment statistics always create a flurry of headlines about the lack of opportunities for new graduates and the difficulties they have in finding their first job.
But, believe it or not, there are glimmers of hope for students graduating this summer. Just today, The Association of Graduate Recruiters revised its growth prediction in the average graduate starting salary from 4% to 6%, taking the average starting salary to £26,500. After three years of no increase to starting salaries this is good news for both graduates and the UK economy. The AGR also expects that the number of graduate vacancies offered by the top 100 graduate recruiters will rise by 4.6% in 2012. The hope is that this is indicative of the attitude of employers across the UK; a recognition that productivity is driven by highly-skilled workers.
It is important to remember that the employment prospects for graduates are much brighter than for other sections of society. For example looking at youth unemployment rates we know that around 20% were unemployed according to the latest ONS data. This is more than double the graduate unemployment rate . (For a more detailed analysis of this see the Work Foundation blog.)
Graduate employment is pretty resilient in such difficult economic times and this is true not just for the UK but across the developed world. Data from the OECD shows that when the financial crisis hit the unemployment rate for those with a degree qualification was less than half that of those with lower qualifications.
Highly-skilled workers are the key to future growth in the workforce. As the chart below shows, occupations with a growing share of the UK workforce are those which have high proportions of graduates. Forecasts suggest that by 2020 these higher-skilled occupations will grow further, creating an estimated 2 million additional jobs.
So, while it may seem that it’s all doom and gloom out there – and no one is questioning the incredibly tough environment graduates find themselves in - we mustn’t lose sight of the glimmers of hope in the graduate jobs market. We should also remember that today’s graduates have a crucial role to play in our economic future.