Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Graduates and nursery education

The Government has made announcements about changes to nursery education this morning, but there is one thing that troubles me and will trouble any institution who already offer courses in Early Years Education and its equivalents.

Last year 1015 first degree graduates were working as nursery nurses after six months. A further 495 were working as childminders. There are clearly graduates entering the profession.

However, these jobs fall under SOC classification 6121, and are classed as below professional level, non-graduate jobs. This is already an issue - are these graduates really not in graduate jobs?

Institutions or departments fulfilling the desire of the Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Education and Childcare to train graduates for childcare and nursery professions will find themselves earning poor employment metrics on KIS and Unistats, and will thus incur the wroth of the Minister for Universities and Science for not sending enough graduates into professional level employment.

This tension will need to be resolved if these new plans are to be successful and to avoid institutions who do as one Government department wishes falling foul of another.

Edited at 11:10: If you want this put a little more simply, here's a rudimentary infographic.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Social benefits of higher education

The OECD have just released a brief report on the social benefits of HE across their member nations. Much of the information comes from 'Education at a Glance', but presented in a neat way.

The UK is included, of course, and data shows that graduates are significantly more likely to vote in the UK, and more likely to report satisfaction with life in general than non-graduates (no life expectancy figures for the UK, oddly enough). Graduates in Greece seem pretty hacked off, though, and who can blame them?

This kind of information is always very welcome as we all want rather more metrics to demonstrate the value of HE than rather narrow measures of individual lifetime earnings.

More of this sort of thing, please!

What does 'good' look like?

Recent discussions about the way that information about the graduate jobs market is relayed has brought me to think about this long-burning question: what does 'good' look like?

What do people expect the graduate jobs market to look like? We have to bear in mind that at no time has the UK ever experienced full graduate employment, and anyone telling you that there was a period in the past when graduates all got jobs is misleading you. There was graduate unemployment in the 60s pre-Robbins, although the rate was lower. This is hardly surprising, since Robbins concluded - correctly - that we weren't producing enough graduates, and one symptom would be a very low unemployment rate.

At present, the unemployment rate after 6 months is below 10 per cent, which is better than it has been in previous recessions (depressing to use 'recession' to describe an economic situation which has been in place for 5 years, but that's the reality), but far below where it was in 2007. And opinions differ on the nature and extent of underemployment, but it's real, persistent and probably affects fewer than half of an employed graduate cohort after six months. It's not 'good' by an objective measure. But, under the circumstances? Is it as bad as we expected? Does it say anything about the quality of graduates?

So, what would a 'good' jobs market look like? Was 2006/7 a good jobs market? Probably, yes, but there were still high unemployment rates for some subjects - IT, most notably. Did we see that the market was good at the time? Possibly not. I don't recall the press being especially positive (and I have some pieces).

But what would be 'good' now? What are we hoping for? What do we expect? I'll be honest and say my hopes for the labour market have certainly become less ambitious - I'd be happy with 'not getting any worse' in 2013 and be very pleased with 'getting slightly better'.

But does it matter what the data says the jobs market looks like? No matter how we perceive it to be, there will still be individuals with their own experiences, who need information, advice and guidance to make decisions. No matter how difficult it might be at the moment, most graduates still get jobs and some business even expand and take people on. And even when the jobs market is at its supposed best, there would still be people who struggled.

There's no sign of a significant recovery - but there's also no sign of the graduate jobs market getting significantly worse. Let's hope that we can see some recovery - and be realistic about what we expect the graduate labour market to look like.

Monday, 14 January 2013

High Fliers

New High Fliers is out.

At this point I ought to do the usual disclaimer about the sample. The survey covers the Times Top 100 employers only, and is heavily weighted towards London (84% of the sample  are hiring there) and the finance industry (over 40% of the jobs covered are in the industry).

To give a bit of perspective, last year, 20% of graduates started work in London and somewhere around 6 or 7% of graduates went to work in the finance industry (it's not easy to be precise with SIC codes).

The Press have covered the basics in their idiosyncratic fashion - the jobs market is getting worse! No! It's getting better!

Actually, if one strove for accuracy, Lord Leveson, an impartial piece on this report would probably read something like 'A survey of a part of the graduate jobs market found that last year was slightly more difficult than 2011, but that the employers surveyed currently expect 2013 to be a little better. All that may change, of course'. But that makes jolly dull headlines.

The report is free, so there's no excuse not to read it because there are a number of very interesting sections. The most significant part is the continuing story of how important work experience is for this group of employers. With the exception of investment banking and oil and gas, all sectors covered upped their numbers of work experience places, and in law and investment banking, the majority of graduates getting jobs last year with surveyed organisations had already worked there.

added at 15:05: even so, 44% of employers in the sample stated that they would be 'quite' or 'very' likely to offer a job to a graduate with no work experience at all

Most of the companies surveyed are offering structured work experience placements as part of a degree course, and it's plain that for some companies, the decision to work for them is best made when you apply for your course and not in your final year.

Overall, don't mistake this for a comprehensive look at the whole graduate jobs market, and so don't draw too many conclusions about the whole market from it (although it does envisage little change), but it works well as an examination of a small but sought-after slice of some of the best-paying employers and particularly the ways they recruit.

piece updated at 15:05 to correct a typo and to add another piece of data.

What do hospitality and tourism graduates do?

Well, people keep asking, and as hospitality, leisure, transport and tourism (or, as we data nerds like to call is, JACS code N8) is the largest subject not to appear in What Do Graduates Do?, here is the data, courtesy of my diligent colleague and the editor of WDGD, Jen Redman.

Outcomes for 2010/11 UK-domiciled graduates in hospitality, leisure and tourism six months after graduation
Types of work for 2010/11 UK-domiciled graduates in hospitality, leisure and tourism who were working in the UK six months after graduation

Fans of What do graduates do?, which is, of course, everyone, will notice we're using different job categories than usual in the figure above. That's because this year will see the adoption of the new Standard Occupational Classification, SOC 2010, as part of the changes to DLHE that came in this time around, and so we will be making substantial revisions to the publication in general and the types of work in particular. Let us know what you think.

Friday, 11 January 2013

HEFCE publish HE in FE data

HEFCE have released their long-awaited (by me, at least) report into the outcome of graduates who took HE courses at English FE colleges.

These graduates are not included in standard DLHE data - franchised provision delivered by a college on behalf of a partner HEI is, but provision registered at FE colleges is not and is what is covered here.

There is a laudable volume of graphs and data in annexes, which means I won't do many but which are well worth reading if you like data (and if you don't like data, then hello, let me introduce myself. I'm Charlie, and I do data. Sorry about that.)

So what are the findings? Well, first, bear in mind that the survey has a response rate of 61 per cent in 2010/11, a good 20 per cent below the rate for DLHE. This equates to 14,210 responses.

In general, the report shows that this cohort were less likely to be in further study and more likely to be unemployed, than counterparts in HEIs. They're also likely to be paid a little less, although this is dependent on subject area, and in some cases does not hold.

The differences are not very great. For full-time first degree qualifiers, about the same proportion from each cohort went into work, and the difference comes in further study and employment rates. You can see the data in Figure 2 of the main report. Foundation degrees are a little more complex - the main difference is that the FE in HE cohort were more likely to be combining work and study, and the HE cohort more likely just to be in study.

But there are some things that bear examination.

The first is that, not surprisingly, things have not budged that much in the last three years from that data we have. Well, graduate outcomes have been stuck in recessionary inertia for a while, so this is not surprising.

The second though, is that unlike the outcomes for the DLHE cohort, the outcomes for this cohort (particularly for unemployment) may be worsening. Not a lot, but it bears close examination.

Here's the third.

This data comes from Table C8 in Annex C.

To put this a bit more starkly, if we were reporting the FE in HE graduates in Unistats, 32% of those employed were in professional level employment after six months. And HEFCE report some data from 2008/9 and 2009/10 which suggests the figures for this cohort have deteriorated.

Now, of course, most of these graduates took qualifications below first degree level - 60%, in fact. And the subject groups play an important part in outcomes - engineering outcomes for the FE in HE students, for example, look pretty good. And some occupations classed as below professional level are, nevertheless, the kind of jobs these courses aim at - beauty occupations, nursery nursing, teaching assistant roles, skilled trades. So we shouldn't expect this data to have parity with the pure HE data.

But what do we expect it to look like? I'd like to see the bars on the left of that graph look a little higher.

This is a really interesting report, and by understanding more about what's happening, we can help to understand the challenges for this cohort of students. Let's see what we can do to improve their career prospects.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

What will the graduate jobs market be like in 2013?

Happy 2013, everyone.

Right, niceties over then, let's get on with the serious business of writing something people will take issue with. What's the graduate jobs market going to be like in 2013?

My regular reader will know that, ostensibly, I dislike making predictions, but for all that I seem rather fond of making them anyway. So, with the economy - both nationally and internationally - still pretty grim, it's time to examine how I think things might look this year.

As always, anything I say that is verifiable is based on information that is now out of date, and anything that is timely is merely speculative. This is the basis of all economic and labour market forecasting - the difference here is that I admit it up front. Oh yes, you can trust me to be honestly inaccurate.

The main trend is uncertainty, and that makes businesses reluctant to invest, to hire - and also to lay off staff. That said, business seems slightly more positive than they did at the end of 2011.

At present, manufacturing has not had a very good 2012 and the signs are that output will probably have been slightly down on 2011 - just. Confidence is down, although the energy and aerospace sectors seem to be doing better than most. Construction had another disappointing year. All in all, this means we're probably not going to see a dramatic recovery in science and engineering employment and consequently the jobs market for graduates in those disciplines is not likely to see a great change. Indeed, construction employers fear more job losses, which means that there is unlikely to be much respite for architects and civil engineers still suffering a battering since the start of recession. Aerospace would seem to be a better bet for prospective engineers at the moment, and consultancy also reports better conditions (that is probably more relevant for graduates with some experience). But there are some signs that some large firms might increase R&D spending this year (that would be more favourable for postgraduates).

In the finance and services industries, IT may see some growth - welcome for graduates in the discipline. Marketing seems to be doing reasonably well - the field has not done badly since recession and seems to be recruiting healthy numbers of graduates. As a whole, the finance industry is not expecting robust growth - activity is below pre-recession levels and so we don't expect a big upturn in recruitment. The public sector, of course, is expecting a difficult 2013.

In terms of recruitment, overall, things are expected to be broadly flat in the first half of the year. Firms are tentatively hoping for growth in the next 18 months or so and are consequently trying to keep skills, and most are maintaining graduate schemes to make sure that they don't experience skills shortages and to ensure succession planning. There are even some skills shortages in technical fields and some firms are reporting that the economy is making it hard to recruit as staff don't want to move.

Salaries are not expected to move much - although areas of skills shortages may see pay increases.

All in all, this is a very long winded way of saying 'I don't expect much to change in 2013' - or at least in the first half of the year. In fact, with recovery remaining slow and rocky, the current graduate jobs market will probably be the new status quo for the next three or four years - the comparatively benign market of 2007 being just a distant memory. So, when the DLHE data is released in June, I'd expect to see an unemployment rate between 8 and 9%, and starting salaries across the UK just below £20k. We may start to see a widening of disparities between regional labour markets, but that's a topic for another blog.

So, everyone have a good 2013 and look forward to a hard but rewarding year of helping graduates to enjoy good careers.