Take on me

Employers recruiting graduates report an increase in salaries and vacancies, according to research published today by the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) at its annual conference. Ross Bentley reports.

The AGR Graduate Recruitment Survey 2005 takes in statistics from 200 of the UK’s leading public and private employer organisations and reveals graduate vacancies have risen by 11.3% on last year.

This rise in vacancies is reflected in a fall in applications per vacancy. Employers received an average of 32.9 applications for every vacancy during the 2004-05 recruitment year compared with 37.6 applications last year. 

Graduate starting salaries also continue to rise. AGR employers will be paying this year’s new graduates a median starting salary of £22,000 compared with £21,000 last year, a year-on-year increase of 4.8% – the largest increase in salaries for more than five years.

According to Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the AGR, the figures reflect a buoyant job market with employers demonstrating confidence for the future. “By advertising for increasing number of graduates, employers are investing in the future,” said Gilleard. “But with intense competition for the best graduates, employers must keep on their toes.”

He said effective recruitment campaigns and competitive benefits packages are key to attracting graduates who are more switched on about what they want from an employer today, compared with 10 to 15 years ago.

The largest increases in vacancy levels in 2005 were reported by IT companies (47%); accountancy and professional services firms (20%); investment banks (17%); and retailers (9%). 

“The results show there has been growth across the board, but particularly in the IT and investment banking sectors where there has been a degree of catch-up following a couple of lean years,” said Gilleard.

By region, the largest numbers of vacancies were in London (45% of the total). Most parts of the UK showed a growth in vacancies, particularly the North West (29%), South East (24%) and South West (20%). 

As for pay, graduate starting salaries are highest in London (£26,500) and the South East (£22,000) and lowest in Wales (£18,800) and Northern Ireland (£18,500). 

Investment banks remain the most generous with starting salaries of £35,000, followed by consulting firms (£28,500) and law firms (£28,000) although salaries in these areas have now remained unchanged for three years. The three sectors with the largest increases in starting salaries are accountancy and professional services firms (up 10% to £22,000), the public sector (up 7% to £22,000) and IT companies (up 5% to £22,000). 

The most popular employers were fast-moving consumer goods companies, which reported an average of 122 applications per vacancy and investment banks which received 42. The lowest number of applications per vacancy was reported by accountancy and professional services firms – 16 applications per vacancy – largely because of the huge numbers being recruited to this sector.

“The statistics suggest some mismatches between graduate aspirations and market conditions,” said Gilleard. “For example, accountancy and professional services firms report one of the largest increases in vacancies but the smallest number of applications.”

The report follows the AGR’s annual awards, held in Newport, where Accenture, Sainbury’s and Royal Bank of Scotland were recognised as top graduate recruiters in the UK.

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