Thursday, 16 July 2009

Graduate Market Trends Summer edition out

This summer edition of Graduate Market Trends features some findings from the Real Prospects survey of early careers of graduates by Graduate Prospects and also a closer look at careers in some of the so-called STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects. GMT presents some current research looking at the employment of chemistry graduates as well as the experiences of being a science PhD student and the career decisions of women pharmacists. What are the push and pull factors in relation to STEM careers and to what extent are the career decisions that graduates make a result of personal autonomous choice or dependent on external structures and organisational working practices?

One of the articles in GMT presents research carried out by the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Biochemical Society. The research underlines the importance of understanding the differences between scientific disciplines as the findings show that each subject requires a different mix of equality and diversity policies to retain women.
Research underlines that for women in science it is still an important issue that motherhood and academia are perceived to be incompatible. This is illustrated by one PhD student’s response:

“I enjoy my PhD and love working in science but have concerns for my future career because it feels as if women must chose between their career and having a family”

(female molecular bioscience PhD student)

Other research show that employers still retain a stereotypical perception of chemistry graduates as having weak interpersonal and social skills (although specialist chemistry employers questioned this stereotype). So if you are a chemistry graduate attending an interview, it is important to demonstrate these skills to the employer.
To subscribe to GMT (free of charge), click here.

For the full GMT Summer edition go to the HECSU web site

Monday, 13 July 2009

OECD’s education lighthouse: social network as response to crisis

The OECD recently held a conference in Copenhagen called "Higher Education at a Time of Crisis: Challenges and Opportunities"

OECD’s response includes setting up a collaborative space called: education lighthouse, with the intention of providing:
  • Up-to-the-minute information, evidence and analysis on the impact of the crisis on education, with concrete examples of how governments and institutions in different countries are coping with the crisis.

  • Information on high priority issues such as education budgets, education in stimulus packages, how unemployment affects motivation and learning attitudes … and much more.

"Anders Sørensen (Professor, Department of Economics, CBS, Denmark) opened his presentation by discussing the length and the extent of the current economic crisis. He pointed out that we are amidst a severe crisis, which is everything we’ve seen before - all at once. Many countries will experience negative growth rates of GDP until late 2010 and there will be increasing unemployment. The question is, therefore, how are new graduates hit by the crisis?
Even though unemployment rates are increasing dramatically, the return to education for the moment seems to be constant. However, he stressed that schooling only pays off in combination with wage experience, so that new graduates should go for wage employment rather than entrepreneurship. Sørensen’s main conclusion was that "education pays!"

(from the document Impacts of the crisis on Higher Education Institutions)

The presentations are available online but you have to register with OECD to be able to join the network.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Labour market gloom

So, the AGR survey came out this week. 48 applicants for every job, one in four vacancies disappeared – the news is very bad.

Let’s take a look at what this really means for the graduate employment and unemployment levels.

Firstly, let’s be clear. The AGR are an excellent organisation who do represent many of the largest, highest-profile and most influential employers of graduates. A clue to this is that the survey reports that the average number of vacancies at AGR employers this summer will be 20, down from 35. However, the AGR don’t cover all employers of graduates – that would be very difficult as so many go to work for SMEs.

The AGR also covers organisations heavily affected by the recession at the moment – financial services and manufacturing are both well represented by the AGR. The AGR isn’t quite as comprehensive in other sectors, like IT, health, public sector and so on.

That said, let’s do some maths. In February, the AGR announced the results of their survey to look at who employers had hired last year.

Their sample of 245 recruiters had taken on 21,144 graduates last year.

This time, a sample of 226 recruiters expect to employ 12,650 graduates in 2009, down a quarter on their hiring last year (the figures are different because we’re looking at a different sample), and with cuts across the board, except for utilities, a sector which has so far seemed to manage to dodge the worst of the recession.

We could look at it this way: we’ve lost 8,494 jobs just from this section of employers. To put this into context, that’s already enough to push graduate unemployment over 10 per cent, even if graduate hiring levels at every other employer in the UK stays the same between 2008 and 2009.

However, because of sampling differences, it probably best to focus on that idea that a quarter of jobs have gone from AGR employers. If we did lose a quarter of all graduate jobs this summer, then that translates to approximately 37,000 jobs gone, and there being around 50,000 unemployed graduates this summer. As I mentioned, I think the AGR are likely to be polling organisations that are affected slightly more by the recession than the economy as a whole, but it looks to me like my unemployment estimates might need to be revised upwards. I have also been looking at research into how quickly graduates get work on graduating, and they also suggest that more graduates get jobs in the autumn, rather than graduate with them, than I originally thought.

One little-publicised area at the moment is law. We produce over 12,000 law graduates a year, and the AGR have just announced vacancies are going to be down 19 per cent. That translates into a lot of would-be lawyers out of work.

It is also worth reinforcing the point that the AGR have made – it is likely to be at least as tough for graduates in 2010.

The other side of the coin is that there are still jobs at top employers, and very few have stopped recruiting entirely. It is also important to stress that many graduates leaving university without a job lined up will not be unemployed for long, even in the current climate, and I’d expect at least half to have work by Christmas. This is what happened in previous recessions and I don’t expect things to change now. Many of them may have to start their careers in jobs that do not immediately require a degree. This has obvious effects on those without degrees and it is them, as always, who will bear the brunt of unemployment.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

First destination statistical release

The new destination data for graduates from 2007/8 came out this morning, and the press release can be found here.

At the risk of seeming a bit negative, I'm interested in seeing how good my predictions here, were, and it seems I'm not far off. I predicted graduate unemployment at around 7.5 per cent. In fact, it went up to 8 per cent last year (I can't compare figures directly as the press release uses a slightly different population than the one I used), and so I expect it to get over 10 per cent for 2008/9 to rival - and possibly overtake - the worst years of the early 90s.

The good news is that salaries seem to have held up, although we'll see more when we get our hands on the data ourselves (hopefully imminently). I'm also going to have a look at postgraduate employment and do some projections on that, as it doesn't actually follow undergrad employment exactly.

Addition: Here is UUK's response to the data