Joan Stringer: There are jobs by the thousand awaiting Scots graduates

THE thousands of students who will graduate across Scotland this summer would be forgiven for feeling a bit gloomy about their prospects.

A raft of recent stories has given the impression that their chances in the jobs market are average at best, slim at worst. But there are headlines and then there is the reality.

It’s true that some of the big graduate schemes may be oversubscribed, but blue-chip companies account for just over a quarter of the jobs pool; there are thousands of ambitious small and medium-sized enterprises across the UK that are desperate to attract the right kind of highly skilled graduates in order to grow.

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It’s also predicted that the vast majority of new jobs created over the next decade will be in the professional and technical sectors and it is vital that we produce graduates capable of filling those roles.

Recent data actually showed that graduates from Scotland’s universities had the highest starting salaries and the lowest levels of unemployment in the UK.

Indeed, suggestions that universities are churning out graduates with little to offer distracts from the enormous focus Scotland’s universities put on ensuring our courses reflect the needs of industry.

The durability and strength of any economy can be measured by the quality and quantity of its graduates. Countries such as Australia, Sweden, Japan and the Czech Republic all recognise that, and are now among the many industrialised nations that produce proportionately more graduates than the UK. It is an international race and we fall behind at our peril.

We remain in challenging economic times, but recovery continues and opportunities are increasing.

The flexible and motivated students I will address at the Usher Hall today – and those graduating at ceremonies elsewhere – are well placed to take advantage of those green shoots, and will bolster the highly skilled graduate base so essential to the Scottish Government’s vision of a low-carbon economy.

In the meantime, we should all celebrate our graduates and be proud of their achievements.

• Professor Dame Joan Stringer is principal & vice-chancellor of Edinburgh Napier University.