UK graduate jobs market lags behind global competition but employers remain unfazed

Top graduate employers are not perturbed by news that the UK graduate jobs market is lagging behind that of other developed countries, with UK university leavers facing the greatest competition for jobs.

The first global graduate recruitment survey by the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) has revealed that in 2009, UK graduates faced more competition for fewer jobs and lower wages than those leaving higher education in countries including the US, Australia and South Africa.

Nearly 50 graduates apply for every vacancy in the UK, compared to 43 in Australia and 40 in South Africa.

But the UK’s top graduate employers told Personnel Today they continued to receive strong applications, so were not worried that graduates would abandon the UK market.

Sarah Shillingford, graduate recruitment partner at business advisory firm Deloitte – the second largest graduate recruiter in the UK, which took on about 1,000 university leavers last year – said the figures would only become a concern if quality applications dropped, which she saw no sign of.

“When people are applying for a job they look at a wide range of criteria – they don’t just look at the amount they will get paid and the number of applications per job,” she said.

“Graduates realise it’s not a lottery and if they are good enough they will get the job irrespective of the numbers who have applied. They are looking at the long-term prospects, like getting training and long-term career prospects. They are looking at a range of things, not just one or two factors.”

Richard Irwin, a senior consultant in the recruitment centre at professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, the biggest graduate employer in the UK which also took on 1,000 graduates last year, added: “We are not seeing people disengaging with us because of [the graduate market].

“Salary factors as an issue, but it’s the perception of a great opportunity that really attracts a graduate to a role. As long as UK employers continue to be smart about how they provide opportunities and continue to invest in offering the best opportunities for graduates, the market will bounce back.”

Gary Argent, business operations manager at AGR, told the magazine the issue of graduates moving overseas was “something to keep our eye on for the future”.

UK graduates were found to earn on average £25,000 – more than £3,000 less than graduates in Australia and Canada, and £4,000 less than in the US.

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