Friday, 21 November 2014

Arts vs science: data wins

As I never tire of telling people, my PhD is in analytical chemistry. Therefore, in the great Arts vs Science debate, my sympathy naturally lies with the evidence.

So, should people stop opting for the arts en masse because they won't get jobs, and go for STEM, where they will?

Let's have a look at the data. As usual, we'll take a look at DLHE. I am a creature of habit, and besides, it does the job perfectly well.

Just to get the methodology straight, we're looking at UK domiciled first degree graduates from 2012/13. Arts and humanities are defined as JACS codes Q to W, so covering languages, classics, the humanities, the arts and the creative arts. It doesn't include law, media, business or the social sciences.

STEM is classed as JACS codes C to J. It covers the biological and physical sciences, maths, computing, engineering and the material sciences. It doesn't cover building or medical subjects.

I think we can all reach our own conclusions, but STEM appears more popular than the arts, and the data doesn't suggest that the arts are necessarily going to make you significantly less employable.

One of the big advantages of the UK graduate jobs market is that so many roles don't really specify a specific discipline. Yes, if you want to be a doctor or build bridges, you're going to need a specific subject, but for many jobs (arguably, the majority although it's not as easy to work that out as it once was), your subject doesn't matter as much as the skills and experiences you have (I try to recommend people try to keep their maths skills up, though). Someone doing a subject they're motivated to study is likely to learn more, get better skills and be more likely to get a good degree grade. 

If you shoehorn people into degrees they don't really want to do, all you'll do is create a lot of indifferent entrants to those jobs who change careers when they can.

This looks like an entrant into the 'graduate jobs myths' file.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Job mobility

The October 2014 Economic Review from the Office of National Statistics includes a very interesting section on job-to-job flows - the propensity for employees to change employer.

The section runs from pages 17 to 22, and covers Figures 10 to 13, with accompanying data.

In short, the propensity for workers to change job of their own volition has increased, and this is considered a sign of increased confidence and economic recovery. 

Here's a graph showing job moves since Q1 in 2003.

'High Occupations' are professional level jobs, the currently-accepted shorthand for graduate jobs. What's interesting here is that there hasn't been much change in the proportion of people moving within high level jobs (about 0.6% of the workforce) or into higher occupations (about 0.4% of the workforce) since the start of 2013. Indeed, moving to a higher occupation was particularly affected by recession, although it has recovered and appears to be increasing.

As this graph shows, we're also seeing a rise in people switching industry, which may be another sign of confidence and gives us information for graduates to tell them that changing industry is not that uncommon. Last quarter 1.1% of the workforce moved industry.
It is interesting to see how this data dropped as recession began - and it is another piece of information suggesting we have a little way to go before we make recovery.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Graduate unemployment rates after six months, from 1975/6 to 2012/13

This is an examination of the early unemployment rate of graduates - specifically, the percentage of UK domiciled first degree graduates who were known to be unemployed six months after graduating, for the years from 1975/6 onwards.

This one is pretty self-explanatory, and I update it every year. As we can see, this year saw a drop in the early unemployment rate, but we're not back to the relatively benign conditions we saw at the end of the 90s and early part of the last decade. It also shows quite how atypical those conditions actually were. 

The recovery looks quite like the one we saw in the 90s, but it remains to be seen if we see unemployment falling again or if it will level out this year.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

What Do Graduates Do 2014

As readers may have gathered, What Do Graduates Do? 2014, which uses 2012/13 DLHE data from HESA to examine graduate outcomes, is out today.

We've had a gratifying amount of press coverage, along with a live interview at Media City for You and Yours on Radio 4, which was quite exciting.

The main message is positive, and pretty much covered by the piece I did in the Guardian last week. The graduate jobs market has improved, but it is not yet recovered from recession. So although graduates can hope for better labour market conditions, they'll still need to work hard to get jobs. But there's much more detail in the book.

What Do Graduates Do can help provide evidence and information for anyone involved in student careers and employability, and as well as the data on outcomes for a range of popular subject options, has insightful articles on further study options, on self-employment, on mature graduates and on postgraduate outcomes.

You can download it, for free, from our site.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Some thoughts on 'graduate retention'

My last post took a look at graduate migration, but I've also been talking with various interested parties about graduate retention a great deal in the last few weeks, and it's not always a straightforward question.

Let's take a university city to illustrate some of the question. I'm going to use Nottingham, not for any particular reason (although I like Nottingham).

Nottingham has two universities. So, there are a series of different groups of graduates to be retained. Group One, is the group of graduates who originally hail from Nottingham. Group Two are graduates who studied in Nottingham. I think most analysts would consider the group being 'retained' are those who studied in Nottingham, but what about graduates originally from Nottingham who studied in, say, Bristol, but then come home to Nottingham? Are they being 'retained'?

Then we have the question of 'where are they being retained'? The City of Nottingham is obvious. What about graduates who work in Nottinghamshire? Are they being 'retained' as well? Arguably yes - in fact, I'd argue they are. The idea of 'Nottingham' as a place to work in graduate terms probably needs to include places that are not within the strict boundaries of the City of Nottingham in order to understand all the places on which Nottingham exerts a significant economic influence and is therefore involved in the processes whereby graduates choose places to work and thus exert their own economic influence. I usually work this out by looking at the places where graduates who hailed from or studied in a particular place actually went to work. This does something provide some interesting insights; few people familiar with the places will be much surprised that graduates from Southampton rarely seem to work in Portsmouth, or vice versa, for example.

And does that mean, if we're looking at 'retention' as a function of original domicile, we then include Nottinghamshire?

What I favour, therefore, is examining retention thus:

All graduates who studied in the location for which retention is being studied, and then examining all those areas which are essentially within an economic sphere of influence of that region - often rather similar to a travel-to-work area. Sometimes, if it's a Government Office region, say the North West, we can stick to the regions. If it's a city or local authority or LEP region, it's best to gauge where graduates who study there actually go to work first in case we lose insight into an important part of the local labour market that doesn't fit within a neat geographical or political boundary, but is significant to people looking to live and work nearby.

These are all very interesting questions, and a reason I use the categories I do in publications examining migration, because it becomes more insightful if you use a matrix of domicile and location of study to examine retention.

And that reminds me, I really need to look at this year's data!

Friday, 29 August 2014

Some thoughts (and a graph) on graduate migration

There's a lot of interest in graduate migration at the moment, so here's something I just looked at from this year's DLHE to give a bit of a basic idea about graduate movements.

This looks specifically at the balance of graduates between their original home domicile and where they're working after six months. It doesn't take into account where they studied (although that does have a bearing).

London remains the big net gainer of graduates and most of the rest of the country see a gradual movement of graduates out of the region after they have been to university - Yorkshire remains the exception. This is at a regional level, of course - there is also movement within regions and many cities are at a strict level, net gainers of graduates. Having chosen Nottingham purely at random, I can see that more graduates from 2012/13 were working in the City of Nottingham then were originally domiciled there - they are, of course, often coming from other parts of Nottinghamshire.

As a very rough rule of thumb, English graduates usually do one of three things on graduating, in order of likelihood (it's a bit more complicated for Scottish and Welsh graduates)

1. They go back to their original home region.
2. They stay in the region they studied.
3. They go to London (or Belfast if they're Northern Irish - Northern Irish graduates are nearly as likely to go to Scotland or the North West as they are to go to London).

There are some differences - graduates from the South East are more likely to have London as number one or two in the list, but in general that order holds. And because London is the one place that graduates from all over go to, then it ends up as the big net gainer. It's an interesting subject.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Destination data - we're looking a lot better this year

We now have DLHE data, and work is now under way on What Do Graduates Do, which will look at destination data in the traditional detail.

The first impression is that outcomes for 2012/13 graduates are a marked improvement on last year, as is being reported elsewhere.

Here are the basics, for all graduates (the HESA press release tends to look just at full-time graduates, we look at all graduates, part time and full time).  The employment rate is up and the unemployment rate is quite a bit down.

Let’s take a look at that unemployment rate of 7.3 per cent, as it’s interesting. The last times the graduate unemployment rate after six months fell by more than one percentage point in a year were in 1995/6 (from 8.1 per cent to 6.9 per cent) and then again in 1996/7 (from 6.9 per cent to 5.7 per cent) as the economy recovered from the recession of the early 90s. 7.3 per cent is the lowest unemployment rate for graduates after six months since before the recession, in 2006/7.

This data shows all the signs of a recovery in the graduate jobs market, and the lessons of previous recessions tell us that if this has started in earnest (and it may not – the early 90s recovery was patchy and it might happen again), it’s likely to take place over a couple of years (so there’s a good chance that the jobs market will continue to improve) and will then level off. If I were a betting man – which I’m not, because, you know, statistics  – I would put my money on that levelling off not taking place for another couple of years yet. Next year is crucial. If we see another clear improvement in graduate outcomes, we can declare a Proper Recovery for graduates and look forward to the employment rate (inc. work and study) creeping up towards 80 per cent and the unemployment rate down to around the 6 per cent mark. 

The news is not all unalloyed good, of course. It looks like the extra jobs are not evenly distributed at all and that recovery has increased both the number of graduates working in London, and London’s overall share of graduate employment. Other cities have also done well (Manchester particularly, by the look of things), but I’ve got mixed feelings about a graduate recovery that entrenches London’s position. I’d rather see jobs better distributed for the wider national economic health. Maybe if recovery continues we will see a more even share of the spoils next year. Let’s hope so.

In the meantime, let’s be happy that, for graduates, we appear to be embarking on a recovery, that these improved figures will reflect very hard work from students and from the people who guide them, but bear in mind that very many will still find it hard to make the next steps on their career after graduation, and we need to help them.