Many graduates facing a first job stacking shelves

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The Independent Online

They might be dubbed the drudgery graduates. After three years of study, running up thousands of pounds of debt, university leavers are emerging into the workforce to find that the only jobs on offer involve stacking shelves or serving coffee.

More than one in three recent graduates now works in a low-skilled job, up from around a quarter 10 years ago, new figures have shown. Over a third (35.9 per cent) of recent graduates were in non-graduate jobs at the end of 2011 – up from 26.7 per cent in 2001.

The figures, from the Office for National Statistics, also showed a fifth of new graduates are unemployed.

At the end of 2011, 86 per cent of all graduates were in work, compared with just 72.3 per cent for non-graduates. However, recent graduates have been hit hard by the recession. Since 2008, the employment prospects of recent graduates have worsened so that now they are more likely to be out of work than the average graduate.

That said, figures suggest employment prospects of new graduates may be improving. At the end of last year 18.9 per cent of new graduates were out of work, compared with 20.7 per cent at the peak of the recent recession.

The figures are also better than in the recession in the 1990s, when unemployment for new graduates peaked at 26.9 per cent in 1993.

Liam Burns, president of the National Union of Students, said: "It is more important than ever that there are opportunities to develop the education and skills we need for economic recovery."

Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, said: "The recession has hit the job prospects of recent graduates but they are still nearly 20 per cent more likely to be in work than people without degrees. Raising the skills of UK workers must be accompanied with an industrial strategy focused on boosting high-value industries such as manufacturing."