Slump in graduate jobs 'is threat to hopes of recovery'
GRADUATES will struggle to find jobs due to the current financial crisis, "hobbling Scotland's economy for an entire generation", it has been claimed.
Despite racking up debts of up to 13,000 to pay for their degrees, those leaving university in the summer face a battle for work.
Large firms across the country are slashing their graduate schemes and those still operating are being besieged with applications.
In the banking sector, Northern Rock, which was nationalised last February, suspended its graduate scheme in 2007 and has no plans to reopen it.
Royal Bank of Scotland will take on fewer than the 500 recruited last year, but would not give precise numbers. And HSBC, after announcing redundancies last year, will also be cutting its graduate intake to 242 from 289 last year – a drop of 16.2 per cent.
The bank's recruitment team has seen an explosion of applications, reflecting the reduced number of opportunities.
The same number of people applied between August to November last year as did in the whole of 2007. Meanwhile, accountancy firm KPMG will cut recruitment by a quarter, from 1,000 graduate jobs to 750.
Dramatic falls in graduate opportunities could see soaring unemployment and increasing reliance on the welfare state.
University leaders warned maintaining graduate levels is crucial to pulling Scotland's economy out of recession.
Iain Ferguson, policy executive for CBI Scotland, said: "The fact there are going to be even more skilled workers seeking employment will add a degree of pressure to graduates because they are going to be up against some very skilled, well trained, up-to-date individuals. Companies are feeling the pressure and graduate schemes may not be the number one priority."
A spokesman for Universities Scotland said economic recovery depended on students not being deterred from education.
He added: "There is much pessimism about the Scottish economy, but a degree is for life. Those with degrees find work fastest when (economic] recovery begins and countries with large graduate proportions come out of recession faster than those who don't."
And he urged students not to abandon education. He said: "A highly skilled workforce is just about Scotland's only hope of economic recovery. If we encourage people to leave themselves qualified for jobs which won't exist in future, we will hobble Scotland's economy for an entire generation."
In recent years, the number of graduates going straight into full-time employment has remained relatively stable at about 40 per cent, with about 30 per cent continuing to study.
The fear among student leaders is the number of graduates going into full-time employment will fall while the number on the jobless queues will rise.
With about 74,000 graduates coming out of Scottish institutions each year, around 30,000 usually find full-time employment fairly soon after completing their studies. The concern now is there will not be the jobs available to meet this level of demand.
Charlie Ball, deputy research director at Higher Education Careers Services, which runs the recruitment charity Graduate Prospects, has recently examined the recruitment situation in Scotland.
He said: "Graduates might look at the high-profile finance jobs which a lot of people aspire to, particularly if they have student debt. If they have amassed a lot of graduate debts and want to go into a high- paying job in a bank, they find that a lot more difficult now."
However, he stressed that difficulty did not mean there were no jobs at all.
He said: "In the last UK recession things did get very bad for graduates, but that was because the employers pretty much wholesale shut down their graduate recruitment schemes. By and large that hasn't happened this time, so things look nowhere near as bad as that recession for graduates."
Mr Ball pointed to the fact that the public sector in Scotland is a more important employer than in the rest of the UK for new graduates, and is not cutting back, thereby providing a bonus for Scottish students.
A report published late last year by the National Union of Students in Scotland revealed a third of students had already considered dropping out because of financial hardship.
A spokesman for Aberdeen University said: "Our advice to students would be to keep applying to companies and be prepared to engage in career-management activities earlier if possible: ie join student societies, undertake voluntary work, apply for summer internships, etc. Don't leave these activities until final year."
Professor Nicholas Terry, vice-principal of Abertay University, said students were worried, but urged them not to consider dropping out.
He said: "Students about to graduate are having to adjust their expectations, but this shouldn't come at the expense of their career ambitions. Most students are mature enough to realise they'll simply have to adjust to labour market conditions when they graduate. My advice to students who are graduating in 2009 is, firstly, think long-term. Their careers are going to last a lot longer than the financial downturn, so keep some perspective on the matter."
Meanwhile, Mark Ballard, the rector of Edinburgh University, agreed students faced a difficult time.
And he called for greater support for students to allow them to take part in internships and greater emphasis in universities on soft skills.
He said: "Universities must look at everything they need to do to prepare graduates for the world of employment. That is soft skills such as how to do presentations, how to write reports – all the things you need for employment, and making sure those are given equal priority to the more academic side."
Gurjit Singh, NUS Scotland president, said: "Given the levels of debt currently being accrued by students, the news that their job prospects are being diminished due to the economic downturn is extremely worrying for those who are preparing to graduate in 2009."
'There is a freeze on recruitment'
Jonathan Eastgate, 21
JONATHAN, from Glasgow, graduated from the University of Glasgow in July 2008 with a 2:2 in Aeronautical Engineering. He has been job-hunting ever since and is still looking for work.
He said: "I think it is definitely harder for graduates at the moment. A lot of places I applied to have just not got back to me or have e-mailed me to say that they are still considering applications.
"It seems like there is a freeze on recruitment in some companies, and companies don't seem to know how many graduates they are taking on or when.
"Most people on my course have really struggled to get jobs. A lot of my friends are still working part-time in jobs they had as students in bars and in supermarkets, because they just can't get anything."
'I know people who started graduate jobs, but were sacked six months later'
Oliver Lash-Williams, 23
OLIVER is a fourth year History and Cultural History student at the University of Aberdeen.
He is so worried about students' job prospects in the current climate that he in chairing a sub-committee on employability at the Aberdeen Students' Association.
The committee was set up by students, but is working with the university careers service and is lobbying the university to make students more employable.
He said: "The aim of the committee is to enable students to be better-equipped when they graduate – to hone their skills for and to get internships whilst they are at university. We also want to learn from students at other universities. At Oxbridge, for example, students are encouraged to do internships throughout their degrees.
"I am really worried about my job prospects. A lot of my friends who graduated last year have found it really difficult to get jobs. I originally wanted to go into law through a post-graduate course in London, but because the financial industries have dried up law is ultra-competitive at the moment.
"I'm now thinking that I might have to take a year out to do some internships or go into teaching. Teaching is really the only graduate job out there that you feel you have a chance in at the moment. I am fortunate to be able to consider going abroad for a year – my friends who are in more debt are in real trouble and are really scared.
"I have friends a couple of years above me who have started graduate jobs in finance and engineering, but they are really unstable. I know people who started graduate jobs, but were sacked six months later."
'It is so difficult to get jobs'
Nicola Grylls, 23
NICOLA graduated with a 2:1 in history from the University of Edinburgh in July 2008.
She said: "What I was hoping to do with my degree was get on to one of the large graduate schemes for advertising or marketing, but they were even more competitive last year than they normally are.
"I decided to look at smaller companies instead and I am now working for an internet retail company, koodos, which I absolutely love, but I definitely think it has been harder for graduates from last year and it will be this year, too. I have heard from friends who are trying to get into lots of different industries that it is really hard this year. Lots of students from my year also seem to be doing other courses to make themselves more competitive because it is so difficult to get jobs."
GRADUATES can expect to owe an average of 13,000 by the end of their degrees – up by a third on last year's estimate – because of the rising costs of heating, rent and food, a recent survey claimed.
English students, who pay tuition fees, were predicted to graduate with an average of more than 17,500 of debt.
Research from the Bank of Scotland earlier this year revealed two-thirds of students already had jobs to support them through their studies.
On average, students in Scotland and Northern Ireland worked the longest hours – eight hours a week while 9 per cent of Scots worked more than 21 hours a week. And a study revealed students in Scotland were more likely to have credit cards than others in the UK.
Credit cards are most popular among students north of the Border, with 44 per cent of people studying there having one, followed by 41 per cent in London. The average debt on the cards is nearly 220.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: South west