Strongest graduate jobs market in 2014


There’s a collective sigh of relief as this year’s crop of university talent are tipped to have the strongest graduate jobs market in 2014 since the economic crisis took hold.

New findings from High Fliers Research claim some of the UK’s biggest employers including Google, British Airways, John Lewis, the police and the civil service plan to recruit a total of 18,264 graduates in 2014. This is an increase of 8.7% compared with 2012, representing the highest level of graduate recruitment since 2007, and the biggest leap in four years.

It’s fair to say that this indicates a boost in economic confidence, with organizations now prepared to invest in recruits with good qualifications. Before we all jump for joy, however, it’s worth taking a look at the jobs market as a whole.


So, what’s not to like?

For a start, you have to offset these new graduate job opportunities against the pitiful lack in recent years and the subsequent backlog of qualified students who remain unemployed.

The Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) has estimated that across the UK, about one graduate in 10 is still out of work six months after leaving university.

Last year, graduate job applications to top employers were 9% higher than the year before, outpacing the growth in vacancies. With about 350,000 students expected to graduate in 2014, it’s clear this is going to add more pressure to those graduates who have been unemployed since the beginning of the downturn.

To get the full gloomy picture, consider these statistics: graduate opportunities plunged by 6.7% in 2008 and by 17.8% in 2009 and according to the survey of 100 top companies by High Fliers Research, vacancies rose just 2.5% last year.

And let’s not forget that overall there are still 920,000 16-24 year-olds out of work and 250,000 jobless for over a year.


On a positive note

Job prospects for graduates have not been this good since the start of the recession seven years ago and this positive news is reflected across employment.

We’ve just heard from the Office of National Statistics that the number of people out of work in the UK fell by 167,000 to 2.32 million in the three months to November, the biggest drop since 1997. The figures also show that the number of people in employment increased by 280,000, meaning there are 30.15 million people with jobs.

In addition, the new 7.1% unemployment rate is near to the 7% point at which the Bank of England has said it will consider raising interest rates. It’s also exciting that the number of people working part-time because they could not find full-time jobs has fallen by 12,000 to 1.4 million.


Let’s get back to the graduate job opportunities

According to the 100 top companies High Fliers surveyed, graduate opportunities will be greatest in the public sector, accounting firms, investment banks and engineering companies. The largest single recruiter of graduates in 2014 will be the teacher training charity Teach First, which has 1,550 vacancies. It is followed by financial services groups PwC, with 1,200 vacancies and Deloitte, with 1,000 vacancies.

More than half of employers will be offering roles in IT and finance, irrespective of their organisation’s main purpose, indicating a demand for skills that outstrip the number of actual IT companies.

It won’t come as a surprise, however, that 87% of vacancies will be in London, followed by 56% in the North West and 54% in the Midlands.

Competition will be stiff as employers are clearly giving preference to students with some knowledge of the workplace. About 37% of the jobs being offered by the top companies are expected to be filled by graduates who have held paid internships, holiday work or work experience. A record 11,819 paid internships and work placements were being offered by the organisations surveyed during the 2013-14 academic year.

Perhaps predictably, the starting salary for graduates is likely to remain unchanged for the fifth year, with the companies surveyed expected to offer a median of £29,000.


What about the economy generally?

You can’t help but feel optimistic at news that the UK’s economy grew by 1.9% in 2013, the fastest rate since the economic crash. According to the ONS, there was growth of 0.7% in the last three months of 2013, with services, production and manufacturing all expanding.

However, construction decreased by 0.3% and although over four-fifths of the fall in GDP during the recession has been recovered, it still remains 1.3% below the pre-recession peak.

You don’t need to be an economist to see that recovery has been slow and remains fragile, but observers are upbeat. Joe Grice, ONS chief economic adviser, said: “We have now seen four successive quarters of significant growth and the economy does seem to be improving more consistently.”

And you have to agree with university minister David Willetts, who has welcomed the significant rise in graduate vacancies as a sign that “confidence in the UK economy is growing”.


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