Graduate vacancy numbers fall for first time since 2003
The number of vacancies for graduates is expected to fall this year for the first time since the 2003 dot.com collapse. According to the Association of Graduate Recruiters, overall vacancies are down by 5.4% on last year and starting salaries are the same as 2008 at £25,000 pa. In the financial sector, however, salaries have been cut by as much as 8%.
The news is not all gloomy though - in some sectors, including engineering, food and drink - graduate vacancies have actually increased. Association chief Carl Gilleard said: "The only certainty is uncertainty".
The Association represents hundreds of big recruiters and 245 of them, who between them recruited 21,144 graduates last year, contributed to the latest survey. 46% of the organisations expected to hire fewer graduates this year, with two thirds of them blaming the economic downturn. But the good news is that this recession is not as pronounced as in 2003 and nothing near as toxic as the downturn in 1991 and 1992, when vacancies fell by 32% and 14%.
However, last summer's survey was a little too optimistic - predicting a 12% rise in vacancies whereas the slowdown has already begun.
Nevertheless, the report commented: "By and large, while no one doubts the seriousness of the current economic downturn, the picture for graduate recruitment, though worrying, could be bleaker.
"There are even some silver linings with growth predicted in the engineering and public sectors - both of which are likely to appeal to graduates seeking job security this year".
The biggest growth in job vacancies is expected to be the FMCG (fast moving consumer goods, including food, drink, tobacco and cosmetics) sector at 12.9%. This sector traditionally favours women graduates, with a 58%/42% gender split.
As expected, the biggest decline is in investment banking - down 28%, with construction down 16.6% on last year.
Geographically, London and the south-east of England account for the lion's share of graduate vacancies (55.9%), with 10.5% in the Midlands, 5.2% in Scotland, 1.5% in Wales and 0.9% in Northern Ireland.
And the message to graduates who don't get their ideal job straight away is to take some form of paid employment, rather than doing further study, unless it enhances their employability. Only 40% thought that taking a year off was a sensible move.
Graduates need to thoroughly research the companies they want to work for and apply early.
The shadow innovation, universities and skills secretary David Willetts said: "Employers are feeling the pinch and cutting jobs as a result. This problem is made worse by the difficulty they face in finding graduates with the right skills.
"Today's graduates face the twin challenges of fewer jobs and poor preparation for working life".