The number of graduate vacancies on offer rose during the past year for the first time since the recession took hold, according to figures released today by the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR).
In the winter edition of its twice-yearly survey of graduate recruiters, the AGR found that while recruitment got off to a slow start in the early part of 2009/10, employers reported a surge in vacancies in the latter part of the year, resulting in an 8.9% rise in vacancies on the previous recruitment round.
This is despite the AGR’s prediction – partly triggered by the year’s slow start – that the graduate job market would shrink by 6.8% over the year.
Promisingly, the AGR predicts that the upward trend will continue, with a further increase of 3.8% in 2010/11.
The survey is based on the responses of 222 AGR members in the UK across 18 sectors that offered a total of 20,971 graduate vacancies in 2010.
But while the survey highlights an increase in the number of vacancies on offer, there has been no increase in graduate starting salaries, with the median starting salary remaining fixed at £25,000. The AGR predicts that this will remain at this amount for the coming year.
Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the AGR, said: “It is heartening to see that after so many months of misery for graduates, the job market is finally picking up. Our members represent a broad and competitive segment of employers within the UK economy and these results signal that the graduate market is overcoming the impact of the recession and anticipating further growth.
“However, the fact that salaries are predicted to remain the same for a third year and fewer employers are offering financial incentives for graduates, is also evidence that the demand for jobs still greatly outstrips supply and recruiters continue to receive above and beyond the number of applications they require.”
Commenting on the survey findings, minister for universities and science David Willetts said: “The graduate employment market is showing encouraging signs of improvement for the first time since the beginning of the recession. Investment in growing the economy and creating a highly skilled workforce is critical and graduates have a vital part to play.
“However, the job market remains competitive for new graduates, as it does for everyone, and graduates still need to work hard to maximise their chances of success. Internships are a route being followed by increasing numbers of graduates and – as part of our programme to get Britain working – we continue to encourage employers to invest in students and graduates by offering work experience and internships which help them to develop valuable skills and boost their employment chances.”
The survey also found that more than a quarter (27.3%) of respondents operate school leaver entry programmes and among those that do not, around one-fifth (18.5%) are considering introducing them.
The main reasons for considering the introduction of these schemes were cited as a commitment to investing in young people, and concerns that focusing exclusively on graduate recruits can be detrimental to the supply of talent.