New research has revealed that the largest drop in graduate unemployment for 15 years took place over the past year. The latest edition of the annual study What do graduates do?, which is published today, finds that the proportion of graduates who were unemployed six months after graduation fell from 8.5% to 7.3% in the year to January 2014.
The report from the Higher Education Careers Services Unit (HECSU) is a snapshot of graduate employment six months after graduation. Other key findings from the study, published in collaboration with the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS), cast a positive light on the graduate jobs market compared to last year:
- More graduates were in employment, up from 73.6% to 75.6%
- A drop in further study as graduates made the most of improved prospects of employment: down from 13% to 12.4%
- More graduates in professional and managerial work, up from 64.9% to 66.3%
- Smaller proportion of graduates in non-professional jobs, for example, working as retail, catering, waiting and bar staff (down from 13.7% to 13%)
Good news for students of STEM and construction-related subjects
The study also found that prospects of employment had improved significantly for graduates entering some of the career sectors that had been most severely affected by the economic downturn. There were higher employment rates for all graduates of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects than a year earlier, and the proportion of graduates working as science professions was up 22.4%.
Charlie Ball, deputy director of HECSU, commented, ‘The biggest turnaround has been the outcomes of graduates from STEM and construction-related subjects. It’s encouraging that STEM skills are so highly sought, but there is a complex story of demand and supply, so it’s vital that students seek careers advice early and take work experience to better inform their decisions and prepare for employment.’
He also suggested that the improvement in graduate employment was spreading beyond the south east, with cities such as Birmingham and Manchester also showing strong growth in graduate hiring. ‘If you’re located away from the major cities and are yet to feel the upturn, there’s a good chance it will reach you in the months to come, assuming there are no further shocks to the economy – although there are no absolute guarantees.’
The research also revealed that a higher proportion of mature students (77.2%) are in professional and managerial work compared to all first degree graduates (66.3%).
Mr Ball commented, ‘With a great deal to offer, mature graduates are doing particularly well in the jobs market, which is in part down to their tendency to opt for vocational courses. As a result they provide the backbone to some of our most important professions such as nursing, social work and education.’