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From The Times
January 13, 2010

Graduates: here's the good news, and the bad news

Martin Birchall
Graduates looking for jobs have had it tough for the past two years. All that learning, all that education, only to find that the number of entry-level positions has been declining steadily, even sharply. At last, however, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The good news is that thenumber of entry-level vacancies available at the country’s leading employers is expected to rise by 11.8 per cent this year. The bad news is that undergraduates may find themselves competing for such posts with graduates from the past two years who are still unemployed.

Graduate vacancies fell by 6.7 per cent in 2008 and a further 17.8 per cent in 2009. Of the 40,000 graduate vacanciesadvertised during the 2008 and 2009 recruitment seasons, almost 10,000 positions eventually were cut or left unfilled.

The improving economic outlook means that employers in at least ten key industries and business sectors, including those of banking and accountancy that were hit hard by the recession, are stepping up their graduate recruitment for 2010.

After cutting more than half their annualintake in 2009, the City investment banks have made a dramatic recovery and are planning to hire a third more university-leavers this year, an increase of more than 500 graduate positions, according to a survey of the employers featured in The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers published today by High Fliers Research.

“Several of the top banks cut their numbers back so far in 2009 that they’ve hadto really increase their recruitment this year,” a senior City recruiter said. “Competition between the banks to attract the best candidates is really hotting up. It’s great for graduates hoping to work in the City.”

There is encouraging news, too, from the leading accountancy and professional services firms. They are preparing to recruit 400 more graduate trainees in the next 12 months, anincrease of 14 per cent, compared with 2009.

“We’ve been even busier than last year and are filling our places very quickly,” a recruitment manager at one of the Big Four professional services firms said. “Students seem much more focused and better prepared this year. They’ve clearly done their research before applying.”

Two of the Big Four — Deloitte and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) — haveconfirmed that they will recruit at least 1,000 graduates each during 2010.

Britain’s leading retailers — including Tesco, J Sainsbury and Marks & Spencer — have increased their graduate recruitment targets by more than 20 per cent and the leading high street banks are planning to expand their graduate programmes by up to 30 per cent.

Yet the survey report The Graduate Market in 2010 warns thatcompetition for places is likely to tough. More than a quarter of 2010’s vacancies were filled before the recruitment season began, either with graduates from the previous year — the so-called Class of 2009 — who had their job offers deferred or by undergraduates who had had previous work experience with employers, highlighting the growing importance of experiences such as summer internships.“The market is heaving with graduates at the moment,” a graduate recruitment manager from the media sector said. “We’re seeing far more high-quality graduates than we know what to do with.”

Three quarters of employers have received signficantly more applications for their graduate programmes this year and a number of organisations have already closed the application process for 2010.

More than40 per cent of applications received so far have been from graduates who failed to find work in 2009, rather than undergraduates looking for work. This might explain why a separate survey of 1,000 final-year students found that they were gloomy about their job prospects. Two fifths wished that they had started their job hunt sooner, a quarter admitted that they had applied for jobs that they...
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