This summer is predicted to be the worst ever for new graduates
IT is normally a time of celebration. Proud parents look on as new graduates stream out of ceremonies, clutching degree certificates, wearing beaming grins and throwing mortar boards in the air for photographs.
Concerns about jobhunting are forgotten, at least for the day, but this year, there will likely be fewer smiles and more frowns. This has been predicted as being among the worst summers, ever, for graduates seeking work. A recent survey by the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) found 69 people with degrees are applying for every graduate job.
At a time when people leave university with as much as 20,000 of debt, the need to get a job is more urgent than ever, yet with the economic downturn, there are fewer jobs. Many employers are cutting staff and scrapping their graduate schemes, creating a perfect storm of disappointment for new graduates.
The AGR survey earlier this month revealed more employers than ever are rejecting people with less than an upper-second degree. With less than half of Scottish graduates achieving that, the move could leave 16,000 people this year with little chance of a job.
Demand has soared, with nearly 70 people applying for every graduate vacancy this year – there were 49 last year and 31 the year before. Overall, there has been a 6.9 per cent drop in graduate vacancies, which follows an 8.9 per cent fall last year.
That has created a backlog of graduates from last year, who weren't able to secure a permanent post, competing with this year's cohort. Critics have called for more support for students, such as government tax incentives to employers, and some fear too many are going to university in the first place.
Tanya de Grunwald, is author of Dude Where's My Career? and founder of the website Graduate Fog, which aims to help those with newly won degrees find their way. She is critical of the support available to students and new graduates entering the jobs market and says many careers services are getting it badly wrong.
She says: "The careers advisers have lost touch with the reality of the world of work – and how difficult it is to find a job right now.
Jobhunting in 2010 is about so much more than knowing how to write a CV. What if you send off 200 applications and don't get a single interview – what then?
"Graduates are often scared, uninspired or overwhelmed. Careers advice often seems fixated on helping young people identify their "dream career". I think this is a big mistake. It should be about asking "what might you enjoy for the next year or so?" not "what do you want to do with the rest of your life?"
We spoke to six graduates about their battles to find work.
LAURA JAYNE SHERIDAN, 26, FINISHED HER POSTGRADUATE DIPLOMA FROM STRATHCLYDE UINVERSITY IN ARCHITECTURAL STUDIES WITH DISTINCTION IN NOVEMBER.
"Now I'm full-time in the part-time job I had at uni at Monsoon. I'm angry, disappointed, heartbroken and demotivated. I do a search every second day to see if there's anything I can apply for, but many companies have laid staff off so are not employing, or are looking for somebody with experience? It's a bit of a kick in the teeth.
The construction industry is picking up but there's just no movement in the jobs market. They are building for the Commonwealth Games, but there seem to be no plans to take on graduates, which I think is disgusting. It's awful. But for every one of us there is an experienced architect who needs a job.
I think there are too many people going to university. I know it sounds horrible because everyone is entitled to a good education, but I don't think the government considered how many people were in universities and how many people needed to be employed. For every new construction project there should be legislation that X number of graduates have to be employed. I'm not exactly in the best-paid job and it's only now I'm starting to progress in retail, but you have to jump through hoops to progress in retail when you are qualified to postgraduate level - you are stuck between a rock and a hard place. They don't want to put you forward and take the risk that they develop you and you will bugger off.
"It's very frustrating. I'm getting married in October and after that both of us are going to have to look at what our futures hold and possibly consider moving to another country."
RYAN BAKER, 23, GRADUATED THIS MONTH FROM STIRLING UNIVERSITY WITH A 2:2 IN PSYCHOLOGY AND IS UNEMPLOYED.
"I am now on benefits and looking for work. I am looking for anything full time, to be honest. I would ideally love a graduate job but they just aren't out there, and if they are, there's about 50 people all applying for the one job. Half the time I don't even hear back from them. There's a problem with non-graduate jobs, like Subway, the sandwich shop, for example. They would rather employ a 16-year-old they can pay less, rather than train me for the next two months. You never get anywhere with those, so you are stuck in the middle. I'm still so glad I did my degree, though, and I think in four or five years when I'm in a good job and I'm happy it will be wonderful. But it's frustrating that we graduated at this point in time.
I have 22,000 of debt but I kind of push it to one side. I'm aware it's there, I'm aware it's a lot but there's nothing I can really do about it. If I sat and worried about it, I would just cry.
There is a careers centre at the university, but it is just a room with lots of leaflets. My friend graduated with a 2:1 in psychology and he hasn't got a job yet, two other friends last year were on benefits for eight months before they got work.
It's very unusual to find a graduate job – I have three out of 30 friends who have got graduate jobs."
MAIJA HIETELA, 30, FROM HELSINKI IN FINLAND, STUDIED FILM AND MEDIA AT QUEEN MARGARET UNIVERSITY AND HAS JUST GRADUATED THIS MONTH.
"I've been sending out applications but it's not going very well. At the moment I'm just applying for whatever I can. If I can get a job on a film, then great, but I'm not expecting that to happen any time soon.
I have ten years' work experience in office, administration, reception and customer service, so I hoped that might put me a little ahead of some candidates, but I've sent out 15-20 applications for receptionist jobs, hotel lobby, office admin and sales assistants and I haven't got any interviews or anything. I would love to do temping work. I sent my CV to one agency, but they haven't got back to me either.
That's why I'm getting a bit discouraged. I would be happy even to do temping three days a week, but I can't seem to even get that, even though I have experience in that.
It's very different in the Finnish system. Only 10-20 per cent of people who apply get in because university is free, so you have an entrance exam and the drop-out rate is almost non-existent. I think there should be something in between, because I think everyone should have the chance of going to university, but there are millions of media graduates now going for the same jobs."
SONIA MAHON, 22, FROM WATERFORD IN IRELAND, CAME TO GLASGOW TO JOBHUNT WITH A DEGREE IN BUSINESS INFORMATION SYSTEMS.
"In Ireland there was absolutely nothing and I thought it might be better here. I even applied for one job today, I sent a CV and a cover letter, which I spent an hour and half writing, and within two minutes of sending it I had a reply back saying 'you are not suitable'.
They couldn't genuinely have read it in that time. It's just so difficult because employers can pick who they want.
I've been looking at marketing jobs because I'm on an unpaid internship at the moment.
The last job I had was unpaid too, but I want to get the experience. You think when you have a CV which has volunteering, that would stand out – at least I'm not just sitting around waiting.
I've been searching since March, before my degree even finished. At the moment the money I came with is running out so I'm going to have to find something in a shop – if I can even find that."
ANDY MCLEOD, GRADUATED FROM EDINBURGH UNIVERSITY WITH A DEGREE IN PSYCHOLOGY IN 2007.
"I'm doing a temporary contract for the four or five weeks of the Edinburgh Festival. I'm a technical assistant and a shopper, so I go and buy stock and supplies, building materials that kind of thing. It's good but it's not what I hoped to be doing now.
Since I graduated it's been pretty much temporary contracts. I've also worked at the Science Festival, bar work and short-term administration jobs.
I'm still glad I did the degree because I gained a lot from the experience. To be honest, I'm considering retraining. I've considered a teaching qualification or something that would have a natural progression into a line of work. It's not been exactly as intended so far but I've not given up on education.
I still have my student debt of 18,000 which I haven't been able to scratch a hole in yet. I think a degree is not as valued by employers as it once was because more people have them."
PAM MITCHELL, 52, JUST GRADUATED WITH A 2:2 BSC HONS IN COMPLEMENTARY HEALTH AND LIFE SCIENCES AT EDINBURGH NAPIER UNIVERSITY.
"There's just been no work out there. I haven't even been able to find part-time office work. The situation for graduates is just horrendous, and there doesn't seem to be any kind of help available through the university, either - we've just been left to go.
Employers are saying you must have a 2:1 - they are looking simply at the academic achievement and not at the whole person and what they can offer.
A large percentage of graduates are mature students - we have between 20 and 30 years of work experience behind us - so we can offer a whole lot more than that 'magic' academic number.
But I also feel the business sector doesn't sponsor graduates or invest in them, despite having benefited from graduates for so long.
"I think the government needs to be talking to businesses and getting them onboard with some kind of financial package."