Magazine article Management Today

Hard Times for Our Graduates

Magazine article Management Today

Hard Times for Our Graduates

Article excerpt

Having put in the graft to achieve a degree, new graduates might feel entitled to fulfilment and prosperity.

But 20% of them are without work, each graduate job attracts 43 applicants and more than a third have taken jobs that make little demand on their intelligence or knowledge. They often have to endure internships that offer no pay or expenses - or even cost them a fee Emma De Vita and Elizabeth Anderson listen to a handful of hopefuls who, through ambition and resolve, are determined to forge a meaningful working life.

Being 21 isn't what it used to be. Fresh out of university with a good degree under your belt, you'd expect the world to be your oyster and to land an interesting job, move into your own place and enjoy your freedom. But today's reality often means returning to the family home, spending a lot of time tapping your parents' contacts and applying for unpaid internships, with only a slim chance of finding a full-time job in your chosen career. If you don't come from a privileged background, things are even tougher.

Excluding those who have gone travelling or are in postgraduate study, the unemployment rate for those who graduated in 2010 or after stands at just under one in five. In 2011, 36% of graduates took lower-skilled jobs, compared with 27% in 2001, and each graduate position is chased by 43 applicants. Unsurprisingly, the biggest slump in graduate vacancies has been in investment banking and fund management. Prospects remain volatile, says Carl Gilleard, CEO of the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR). 'Graduate recruitment is largely based on confidence, so if businesses feel the market is improving, they'll take the brakes off. But if they see gloomy forecasts, the brakes go back on.'

With general unemployment running at 8.4%, graduates are fighting for jobs against the more experienced and - in employers' eyes - more deserving. Next month, when university courses finish, thousands more graduates will flood the market.

Employers are reaping the benefits of this oversaturated market, some taking advantage of the keen talent knocking on their doors, desperate for a chance. It's not rare for graduates to work months for no money (not even expenses), or even to pay for the privilege. Jane Standley, director of the University of Reading's careers centre and a board member of the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS), recently advised a student not to pay pounds 2,500 for work experience with a City bank. 'Getting into a career shouldn't be about your ability to pay for it,' she says. Others might say: if that's what it takes ...

Jason Brown, 23, who graduated last year from Kingston University's graphic design course, wants more of a meritocracy. He moved back to the family home in Devon once the money ran out and, since July, has been applying for jobs and staying over with friends in London - though 'it costs so much for travel and I don't come from a well-off background'. He's had 16 interviews, all for unpaid work experience, the most recent of which was with a design agency - which told him that 250 people had applied and it wouldn't be able to give him a job.

Brown also worked on a branding project for BBC3, but it didn't even have the courtesy to get back to him. He is worked up about the situation, saying graduates don't have any rights and businesses can just pick and choose. Even worse, most jobs aren't advertised, so it's all about who you know. 'It's 2012, not the 1970s,' he says in exasperation.

Menelik Simpson, 23, is from Wolverhampton and graduated alongside Brown but has had more luck, not least because he has had a place to stay for free in London with his aunt. On graduation, he landed a placement at a publishing company near the City but couldn't stay for long as he couldn't afford the travel.

He applied for jobs in design and photography but, pragmatically, also pursued work in retail. …

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