UK graduates look at the employment world with rosy coloured spectacles. While 72% of 2015 grads expect to find full time work after graduation, only 58% of those graduating in 2013 and 2014 did so. Furthermore, of those that did find employment, 60% say they are either underemployed or are doing non-graduate work. While companies are taking advantage of the surplus through internships and other dodgy employment channels, many grads are no longer interested in working for the big firms in the big industries, but prefer seeking the culture and fun of medium-sized and small firms.
In a recent poll Accenture asked 1,000 University students in the UK graduating in 2015 about their expectations, as well as 1,000 students that graduated in 2013 and 2014 about their experiences in the job market.
The survey found that there is a considerable gap between the expectations of graduates and the reality of the employment market. While 72% of fresh graduates expect to find a full-time job on graduation, only 58% of the 2013 and 2014 group have managed to do so. And while 80% of students are being selective about their major on the basis of likelihood for employment, only 67% expect to find a role in their chosen field, yet the reality is that only 55% of 2013 and 2014 students have been able to do so. And while 84% of graduates expect to earn more than £19,000, only 75% do.
The market for graduates remains poor, with 60% of graduates considering themselves underemployed or working in a job that does not require a degree, while 71% have worked on an internships (often unpaid), with only 39% of those succeeding in turning it into employment. One consequence is that graduates are looking to move cities (44%) as well as countries (28%), while in 2013 and 2014 this was still only 19%. “Graduates are willing to invest further to secure better work or make trade-offs to find work with employers with a more conducive culture,” says Payal Vasudeva, Managing Director at Accenture’s Human Capital practice. “Four in ten 2015 graduates would be willing to take an unpaid internship if a job was not available. Employers who fail to create career development programs and a clear path for advancement are missing a tremendous opportunity to attract and retain top talent.”
While graduates are having issues, they too have their own expectations about the kinds of employer with whom they feel comfortable. Particularly large companies are being avoided, with 79% preferring mid- or small-sized businesses, and 16% keen to either work for a start-up. In terms of sectors, barely 13% are interested in working in the communications industry, 10% in the pharmaceuticals, 7% like the look of energy, 6% insurance and barely 2% utilities.
Of the students surveyed, many state that they are seeking a positive work environment, with 59% of students stating that they would rather work for a company that has a positive atmosphere than receive a higher salary, and would rather have a lower salary than little fun. Those in current employment continue to agree, with 55% of 2013 and 2014 grads placing a premium on culture over salary.