Graduate employers are predicting a surge in vacancies this summer after offering more jobs than expected last year, according to a survey of over 200 recruiters.
Salaries are likely to remain static, the survey indicates, but vacancies are predicted to increase by 3.8% this year.
The brighter outlook for university leavers follows an unexpected increase in vacancies last year, the first growth in the graduate job market since the recession. Despite a prediction that vacancies would fall by nearly 7% last summer, a surge in recruitment during the closing months of 2010 led to employers reporting an 8.9% rise in the number of positions.
The upward trend is predicted to continue this year. But the average salary is predicted to remain static at £25,000 for an unprecedented third year, according to the poll by the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR). A poll of 100 employers published by High Fliers Research last week predicted a far higher average starting salary of £29,000, though this was based on a narrower sample.
The AGR, which had poll results from 222 employers, found that only a quarter are likely to reward successful candidates with a lump sum payment and approximately two-thirds (67.8%) say that they do not intend to offer premiums for PhDs or master’s degrees. The median lump sum payment is estimated at £2,100, £400 less than last year’s average.
Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the AGR, said the surge in recruitment at the end of last year followed a summer revival of confidence among employers. “What tended to happen in the past [recessions] is that employers put the brakes on, and only took their foot off a year or two later. Then they found they didn’t have the talent in their organisation to cope with growth. I think that was an important lesson that a lot of employers learned.”
The survey also found that more than a quarter of employers had school-leaver entrance schemes. Of those that did not, 18.5% were considering introducing them. The employers polled included Accenture, Credit Suisse, Network Rail and Sainsbury’s.
Gilleard added: “It is heartening to see that after so many months of misery for graduates, the job market is finally picking up. These results signal that the graduate market is overcoming the impact of the recession and anticipating further growth.
“However, the fact that salaries are predicted to remain the same for a third year and fewer employers are offering financial incentives for graduates, is also evidence that the demand for jobs still greatly outstrips supply, and recruiters continue to receive above and beyond the number of applications they require.”
The pick-up in vacancies last year followed job opportunities declining by 8.9%. The previous year, 2008, the graduate jobs market grew by 0.6%.
Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the vice-chancellors’ umbrella group Universities UK, said: “Today’s survey is a clear indication that UK graduates are still highly valued by employers. Universities will be one of the key drivers for our economic recovery.
“University is a life-changing, long-term investment that has benefits both for the individual and society generally. It provides students with the ability to think innovatively and analytically, and provides them with the ability to develop and adapt their skills for the future.”
Source: Jeevan Vasagar, education editor