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Top graduate jobs soar but state-schooled graduates vastly underrepresented 

Stephen Isherwood

Businesses hired significantly more graduates, apprentices and interns this year, however much more needs to be done to improve diversity.

Institute of Student Employers (ISE) Annual Student Recruitment Survey 2018 reports that employers’ value young people, increasing their student hires overall by 16 percent. Last year overall hires increased by 6 percent.

While the number of graduate jobs (17,667) outstripped apprenticeship (5,499) and school leaver programmes (766), they continue to grow at a slower rate. Employers recruited 7 percent more graduates (1 percent growth in 2017) and apprenticeship and school leaver programmes grew 50 percent (19 percent in 2017).

There were also more summer and year-long internships this year, increasing 10 percent and 31 percent respectively. These organisations rehired an average of 52 percent of their interns and 43 percent of their summer placement students. Compared to last year, graduates were more likely to find jobs in engineering, law, utilities, banking or financial services. Accountancy, professional services, digital, retail and public sector organisations hired a smaller proportion of graduates.

On almost every diversity measure, the average graduate intake does not reflect the graduating cohort or the UK’s population. People who attended state schools, women, first generation graduates and disabled people are all underrepresented on graduate programmes.

The ISE represents high quality employers, particularly those in law, banking, professional and financial services. So it is a concern that only 57 percent of graduates appointed had a state-school education, compared to 91 percent of the population.

Diversity is a significant priority for nearly all (96 percent) of the employers who responded to the survey. The majority is investing in improving their attraction and marketing activities (77 percent) and recruitment and selection processes (67 percent). One in five employers have now removed minimum entry requirements while more than a third select universities to improve the diversity of their hires.

Employers offer rewarding packages to attract young people including pension schemes, permanent contracts, on the job perks and sign-on bonuses. The average graduate salary reported was £28,250, which is considerably above the overall graduate average of £22,000 (Higher Education Statistics Agency).

Wages continue to stagnate across the labour market. Since 2008 graduate salaries have only just kept pace with inflation. This means that today’s graduates are £1,500 worse off in real terms than those who entered the workplace 10 years ago, before the economic crash of 2008.

Stephen Isherwood, Chief Executive of the ISE said: “Employers haven’t been deterred by economic concerns around Brexit and the global trading climate. Students should be encouraged that there are lots of opportunities and different routes into some of the country’s top employers.

“Employers are taking some serious action to improve the diversity of their workforce and there is a high level of concern, particularly as graduates from state schools are potentially being locked out of some of the best career options.

“We must find the means to recruit the talent that exists within the breadth of the student body. This means changing the nature of recruitment and selection processes and putting less focus on Russell Group institutions or those that companies have historic links with. It is important to look at the wider social obstacles too. We can’t expect businesses to shoulder the full responsibility for an unequal society.”

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