The new AGR survey came out in early February and as usual took a look back at the previous year’s recruitment and examined how AGR employers feel the coming year will go. 214 of 361 employers contacted replied to the survey.
With the recession casting a long shadow over all recruitment activities in 2009, there was an obvious theme in the survey, but what is noticeable is that the expected decrease in reported vacancies turned out to be rather lower than anticipated. In the summer, AGR recruiters were expecting a quarter fewer vacancies, but the expected fall of 24.9% turned out to actually be a much smaller reduction of 8.9%. At the time when many AGR jobs are offered, the period of June to August, ONS data showed a fall in the number of vacancies of 29% across the economy compared to the previous year; AGR employers appear to have been less affected by the recession than employers as a whole.
AGR employers do expect another small fall, of 1.6%, in the number of vacancies they offer in 2010, but the figures suggest that the market has begun to stabilise. Oil companies and consulting or business services firms are expecting to recruit significantly more graduates this year, and 51.5% of respondent employers expect to have more vacancies this year than last. Interestingly, considering the torrid time the sector has suffered during the recession, construction companies questioned by the AGR survey believed they’d have 32% more vacancies in 2010, providing some relief for architecture and civil engineering graduates who have been badly hit by the downturn. The most common reasons for recruiting more graduates was because of expected or actual business growth – other, less important reasons included more focus on graduate recruitment, staff turnover and an increase in applicant numbers.
At the same time, 31% expect to be offering fewer vacancies, most saying that they’ll be offering between one and ten fewer places. 3.6% say they don’t expect to have any new vacancies. The third sector is expected to see the greatest fall in vacancies, but public sector employers, transport and logistics and insurance all expect modest falls in recruitment in 2010. The main reason for reducing numbers was given as the economic climate, with other reasons including better retention of current staff, and a decreased focus on graduate recruitment.
AGR employers were also asked what they felt were likely to be the major recruitment challenges for their graduate recruitment round in 2010. Employers are concerned about candidates applying to many employers and thus being more likely to drop out – and this is felt to be a relatively new phenomenon for this group of employers.
Median starting salaries at AGR employers are expected to remain at £25,000.
So, what does this mean? Well, 2010 is going to be tough for graduates who want to join the large, blue-chip recruiters who make up the AGR's clientele, but maybe not as difficult as in 2009. Some areas of construction may be recovering. But the public sector is not expecting to fare so well - and most public sector graduate recruitment happens outside the auspices of the AGR.
All in all, I think the report is a little more positive than, perhaps we might have expected last year, but we're not out of the woods yet.