Companies are hiring more students overall this year with apprenticeship growth outpacing that of graduate jobs.
The Institute of Student Employers (ISE), formerly the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR), Annual Survey reports that employers increased graduate hiring by 1% to 20,614 graduates this year while the number of apprentices grew by 19% to 11,016.
The number of apprenticeships has grown to 54% of the volume of graduate jobs, compared with 44% last year.
Degree-level apprenticeships grew at the fastest rate (50%). However, the qualification is in its infancy and many courses are yet to receive government approval, so growth was from a relatively low base. Of the 11,016 apprentices, just 823 were degree level this year. Growth is likely to slow down next year. Employers already hiring degree apprentices expect to increase their vacancies by 15% overall in 2018. An additional 18% of employers expect to start offering these opportunities next year.
The volume of interns recruited also increased, rising 3% to 6,833. Overall student hires rose by 6% in 2017 and median salaries for graduates increased 2% to £28,000. The median salary for degree apprentices was £17,802.
This year student employers see domestic challenges as bigger issues than leaving the EU. Improving diversity was cited as the biggest challenge for 2017, displacing Brexit from the top spot to eighth place.
An average of 43% of graduate hires, 44% of interns and 34% of apprentices are women, compared to the 54% of female university students. However, the diversity of student hires is improving. Employers with year-on-year data improved their average gender diversity by 5% and ethnic diversity by 2% in the space of three years.
Securing candidates also remains a challenge for businesses and competition is strong. Employers invest around £3,500 per hire to recruit graduates yet, on average, 10% of job offers are declined and 5% of offers are reneged.
Stephen Isherwood, Chief Executive of the ISE said: “Employers are offering more opportunities for students and a wider variety too, but competition is strong. A significant proportion of offers are turned down despite major efforts to find talent such as hiring former interns and increasing salaries. Employers are also getting smarter about where they get their candidates from by making attraction and selection approaches much more inclusive.”