Brexit vote hit graduate recruitment levels last year

Widespread uncertainty about the impact of Brexit stalled some of the UK’s top employers’ graduate recruitment plans in 2017, research has found.

The number of university graduates hired by organisations named in The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers list fell by 4.9% in 2017 – the first drop in graduate recruitment for five years – according to  High Fliers Research.

The Graduate Market in 2018 report found that many companies had set their graduate recruitment targets for last year before the EU referendum vote in 2016, and had to revise down their graduate job allocations amid concerns about the impact Brexit might have.

In 2016 High Fliers Research estimated that 22,000 graduate vacancies would be available at the top 100 firms last year, but only 19,133 positions were filled.

High Fliers Research managing director Martin Birchall said: “It clear from our latest research that the uncertainty caused by Brexit has already hit the graduate job market.

“The country’s best-known employers hired almost 3,000 fewer graduates than expected in 2017 and recorded the biggest annual fall in graduate recruitment since the recession in 2008 and 2009.

“Although employers in a number of key industries and business sectors are hoping to increase their graduate recruitment again in 2018, the outlook of many recruiters remains cautious for the year ahead.”

However, whilst much of the recruitment issue was attributed to uncertainty following the EU referendum, some employers admitted that their graduate vacancies were harder to fill than in previous years.

“For the third year running, more than 800 graduate roles were left vacant, either because employers didn’t receive sufficient applications for their more specialist graduate vacancies or because graduates turned down or reneged on employers’ job offers,” the report added.

Recruitment fell in eight of 13 “key” graduate industries, such as finance, retail and consulting. However, the armed forces recruited its highest number of graduates ever, up 12.3% on 2016’s figure.

A quarter of the companies questioned said their annual budget for graduate recruitment increased for 2017/18, and the report estimated that there would be 3.6% more graduate vacancies at the top 100 businesses this year (20,277 in total).

The largest graduate recruiters in 2017/18 are expected to be accounting and professional services firms, the public sector, and engineering and industrial companies, with a combined recruitment target of almost 11,000 graduate positions.

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