Go Higher: Wales & The South-west - Just the job: in Wales and the South-west

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Indy Lifestyle Online
ACCORDING TO surveys, the South-west offers the best quality of life in Britain, so it won't be surprising if you want to stick around after graduation. Fortunately, there are plenty of job opportunities, particularly around the major cities.

Bristol, for instance, offers work in the defence and pharmaceutical industries, and is home to major employers like BT, Sun Alliance, Lloyds TSB and Hewlett Packard, based right next to the University of the West of England. UWE's careers service says that over half its graduates stay within 40 miles of the university. Average starting salary for graduates at its school last year was pounds 14,700 in 1998; overall, the university estimates that starting salaries average just pounds 500 less than around London.

Bristol University also has an excellent reputation for graduate employment, with one of the lowest numbers of people out of a job six months after graduation.

At the Southampton Institute, the biggest faculty is business, and lots of its graduates go into financial services. Major local employers include Skandia, HSBC, GEC Marconi, P&O ferries, Southampton City Council and the NHS. Generally there is a lot of retail, financial services, IT, engineering and defence-related work, and around 30 per cent of the institute's graduates stick around. Their average starting salary is around pounds 15,500 - just under London rates.

At Cardiff, the rate of graduate unemployment has fallen for the last six years, and is now at an all time low of around 8 per cent. Of those going into work, 75 per cent of Welsh students stay in the area, as do 25 per cent of the non-Welsh. There is no shortage of jobs with employers like BT, Hitachi, British Steel, Sony and Ford all taking on graduates each year.

Bournemouth University runs "Graduates into Business" to get more of its alumni jobs in Dorset, and puts a lot of emphasis on a combination of practical experience and academic study. Its students can gain real world experience by working closely with professionals recruited directly from industry, and by going out into employment for periods from six weeks to a year.

The university's retail management course, for instance, can claim a 100 per cent success rate in graduates finding work within just six months of finishing their degree.

In Plymouth the big employers are the public sector, although the fairly strong manufacturing base offers opportunities for engineers, business and technology graduates. The university has projects to help graduates get into the many small- to medium-sized companies which need people with vocational skills who can hit the ground running.

In Exeter, too, the public sector is a major employer, with schools, the county council and health authority offering regular vacancies. Like Plymouth, the university's Graduate Business Partnership scheme aims to get more graduates into smaller local firms by arranging 20-week student placements.

Admittedly, there's less work in the smaller Welsh towns, but if you're studying in Wales, "Cymru Prosper" offers a pan-Wales programme designed to promote graduate employment in smaller firms. Operated through the careers services, it offers graduates or undergraduates of any discipline pounds 70 per week for an 8-12 week period, while working on a specific degree- related project for a company.

That said, job and training opportunities for Aberystwyth graduates are consistently higher than the national average. Government figures for 1997 - the most recent available - show that 89 per cent of graduates found employment or training, compared to a national average of 81 per cent. Last year, the university was awarded pounds 1m to set up a Challenge Fund to assist graduates to establish their own commercial companies.


Sian Phillips, leading British actress, is a graduate of Cardiff University