Graduates ‘paralysed’ by fear of no jobs in the UK

Graduates are being “paralysed by fear” and put off applying for UK jobs because they believe the hype that no-one is hiring, top graduate recruiters have warned.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Deloitte – the top two graduate employers on the Times‘ annual list – have called on UK firms to promote the job opportunities that are still available despite the recession, to prevent talented prospective employees ‘abandoning ship’ and seeking alternative careers or placements abroad.

The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills published a leaflet this week advising graduates to seek work abroad or volunteer to avoid unemployment this summer.

It told students: “Getting a job after graduating doesn’t have to mean working in the UK. Going abroad to work can be an even more exciting experience and a way to increase your range of skills.”

But Sarah Shillingford, graduate recruitment partner at the UK’s second biggest graduate recruiter Deloitte, told Personnel Today: “Statistically it is more difficult to get a job, but the reduction in vacancies is not as great as people think it is. Some students are feeling paralysed by fear. There is a risk that students will give up the job search before they have even started.”

She added that by seeking work abroad, graduates would be unlikely to secure graduate-level work and could miss out on the economic upturn at home. “If graduates want to find jobs in the UK, they should be encouraged to do that,” she said.

Concerns over a lack of UK graduate jobs were further fuelled last week when a KPMG/Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development survey found just 49% of companies planned to offer jobs to university leavers this year.

Sonja Stockton, head of recruitment at the UK’s top graduate recruiter PwC, said those leaving to work abroad when there were still opportunities at home could lead to a generation of lost talent.

“We would be concerned if talented graduates felt they needed to leave the UK to get work. We could lose a generation of students, skills and experience on the basis of presumptions graduates are making about the jobs market through reports that are not fully reflecting the opportunities that exist.

“More than ever, students and employers need to talk the same language about the skills required in business, and how students can develop and demonstrate them.”

Stockton revealed PwC had written to more than 60 universities to raise awareness of its recruitment programme, and said graduates should remember many job opportunities still existed in regional offices.

Emma Pollard, senior research fellow at think-tank the Institute for Employment Studies, agreed employers should better advertise opportunities to work in the UK, including paid placements or work experience. “Graduates don’t know what they can do and what the opportunities are,” she said.

Making the case for working abroad

Several law firms have opted to pay graduates that have accepted a job with them thousands of pounds to defer their start date and go abroad, returning to the role next year when demand picks up.

Alex McGovern, graduate recruitment manager at law firm Norton Rose – itself offering new graduates £10,000 to ‘do something constructive’ – said going abroad would enable university leavers in any sector to gain new skills and experiences, which would help them become more useful to companies that increasingly deal with international clients.

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