FROM CAREERS ADVISER: AN INDEPENDENT PUBLISHING MAGAZINE

News: Rise in graduate vacancies provides recruiters with challenges

Starting salaries for graduates are expected to rise by just 2.1 per cent this year - the smallest increase in six years, according to the twice-yearly Graduate Recruitment Survey, published by the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR).

The research shows the median graduate starting salary in 2007 is expected to be £23,431. But on a more positive note, graduate vacancies are predicted to grow for the fourth year running.

The survey of 211 leading employers found the number of vacancies for graduates entering the job market in 2007 is predicted to increase by 15.1 per cent, significantly higher than last year's actual vacancy increase of 5.2 per cent.

And the rise in the number of vacancies continues to provide recruiters with challenges - more than 40 per cent of those surveyed anticipated difficulties in filling all positions in 2007. But despite fierce competition between recruiters for the best talent, less than 20 per cent believe shortfalls are attributable to their starting salaries not being competitive.

Employers cited a number of recruitment challenges, including:

* Lack of applicants with the right combination of skills, for example team-working and leadership

* Lack of applicants with the right qualifications for specific job roles

* Issues with specific geographical locations

* Applicants' perceptions of the industry sector.

The highest growth in graduate vacancies is predicted to be in investment banks or for fund managers and accountancy or professional services firms. Increases have also been predicted within transport and logistics, construction, telecommunications and the public sector. Meanwhile, the largest salary increases are reported by organisations from the fast-moving consumer goods sector, oil and energy, water, and utilities, followed by those in banking and financial services, and construction companies.

MOVE TO TACKLE SKILLS GAP

The Government is considering demanding that young people stay in school, training or workplace training until the age of 18. The move would be an attempt to tackle the problem of increasing numbers of young people that do not have the skills or qualifications needed for employment. Currently, 11 per cent of 16 to 18 year olds are NEET (not in education, employment or training).

Alan Johnson, the Secretary of State for Education said, "We should find it repellent that a youngster of 16 is not getting any training" and that he regretted not staying in education.

Such a move would have a dramatic effect on the advice and guidance that careers advisers working with young people will be able to provide. The Government will produce full proposals in spring, with the hope that it will come into force by 2013.

VACANCIES RISE FOR THIRD YEAR RUNNING

A new study of graduate vacancies and starting salaries at Britain's leading employers reveals that the number of jobs for graduates leaving university this summer is set to rise by more than 10 per cent to 17,134.

This is the third consecutive year that recruitment has significantly increased, according to The Graduate Market in 2007.

Graduate recruitment is particularly buoyant at the "Big Four" accounting firms, where there are now 80 per cent more vacancies for new trainees than there were three years ago, and in the Armed Forces.

The largest recruiters in 2007 will be Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Army, which each intend to employ at least 1,000 university leavers this year.

Salaries for new graduates also continue to rise sharply. Top employers are planning to pay graduates average starting salaries of £25,500 - a substantial increase of 7.1 per cent on last year's initial packages.

But despite these encouraging findings, researchers have warned that the recent growth in employers' graduate programmes has failed to keep pace with the huge rise in the number of students going to university over the past decade.

The research is based on a study of graduate recruitment at 100 of the UK's best-known employers, conducted by High Fliers Research during December 2006. Other results in the study include:

* One in 10 organisations aim to take on at least 50 extra graduates.

* The sectors preparing to recruit the most graduates are accountancy and professional services (25.7 per cent of total graduate jobs), investment banking (15 per cent), the Armed Forces (10.5 per cent) and the public sector (8.4 per cent).

* More than 90 per cent of leading employers are recruiting graduates to work in London or the south east of England this year. By contrast, less than half have any vacancies at all in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

* Starting salaries at the UK's leading graduate employers are due to rise by 7.1 per cent in 2007, taking average packages to £25,500 for the first time - a £1,700 increase on last year's average salaries.

DECISION ON HOLD

The decision on the future position of Careers Scotland has been postponed until the summer. The Scottish Executive says it "remains committed to transferring Careers Scotland out of Scottish Enterprise" and has begun a full options appraisal on the future of Careers Scotland involving all stakeholders.

As part of its involvement with this process, the Institute of Career Guidance will be expressing its concerns about the impact of proposed changes on the all age service delivered by Careers Scotland as well as any consequences for career guidance services in the Highlands and Islands area.

ORGANISATIONS PRODUCE ADVICE FRAMEWORK

The Institute of Career Guidance - together with organisations such as the National Association of Connexions Partnerships, Association of Careers Education and Guidance and Teachers - have produced a framework for the implementation of an Information, Advice and Guidance entitlement.

The document, entitled Supporting Choices 11-19+, has several valuable elements including a comprehensive self-assessment template, as well as being a useful tool for the understanding the effective presentation of information, advice and guidance programmes.

VIRTUAL ADVISER

Thanks to the first virtual careers adviser in the sector of food and drink manufacturing, people can now get information on jobs and training at the click of a button.

Dunkan, described as "a gingerbread man with a difference", has been developed by Improve, the food and drink sector skills council, and is accessible through the organisation's website. The animated character has been designed to make it easier to learn about different job opportunities and qualifications within the sector.

"We wanted to make finding out about careers and training on the internet more interactive," says Sue Fairest, skills development manager at Improve. "Rather than having to trawl through pages of information trying to find what you're looking for, you can ask Dunkan very specific questions. Or, if you're not sure what you're looking for, Dunkan will ask you a series of yes or no questions before suggesting areas of interest he thinks might suit you best."

She added: "He's targeted at everyone interested in working in food and drink manufacturing - from school-leavers to adults wanting a change, and existing employees who want to explore different job opportunities."

The launch of Dunkan is part of Improve's new Information, Advice and Guidance programme, which aims to raise awareness about careers within food and drink, and help engage employers in new ways of attracting potential employees.

For information, visit www.improveltd.co.uk and click on the careers tab

SUSSEX SCHOOLS REWARDED FOR GUIDANCE

Two schools have received awards from Connexions for their positive attitude to careers education and guidance.

The Sussex branch of Connexions championed both Eastbourne Tutorial Unit and Helenswood School for the quality of careers provision that they provide. This week they were awarded the Committed to Careers prize by Connexions. The award offers financial benefits for the winners, including training and development funds to be spent on careers education.

On receiving the award, Dame Shelia Wallace, head of Helenswood School, commented on the value of the partnership between the school and Connexions, and she was keen to point out the value of careers education and guidance for young people.

ACCOUNTANCY BECOMES MORE ATTRACTIVE

Young people have a much more positive image of accountancy and financial management than many might have assumed, according to a national survey conducted for CIMA (The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants).

The research by YouGov, carried out with almost 2,000 18 to 25-year-olds, revealed that 70 per cent of them refused to categorise a career in accountancy as dull and boring. In addition, almost a third were already working in this area, considering doing so, or would think about taking jobs in it if they felt they had the aptitude.

Charles Tilley, chief executive of CIMA, says: "These findings are highly encouraging and suggest today's young people are pretty savvy about the reality of working as accountants in business. For management accountants in particular, it's far less about traditional number crunching and far more about contributing to an organisation's strategic direction. It's clear many of those surveyed not only understand modern financial management but find it attractive as a career option."

However, it appears that there is still some work to be done to promote these careers. About a third of those surveyed recognise it could be extremely rewarding financially, and a fifth agree it was often a stepping stone to very senior jobs. This contrasts with the current industry figures which state that more than a third of CIMA members earn more than £50,000 a year, with more than 5 per cent earning at least £100,000 per year. In addition, almost 30 per cent are very senior professionals, with almost 10 per cent being chief executive officers or directors, including managing directors. About 700 members are top managers in FTSE 350 companies.

LABOUR 'IGNORED' COURSES WARNING

The Tories have claimed that the staggering drop of almost 700,000 adults taking part on courses at sub-degree level could have been avoided if Labour had acted on warnings from across the learning and skills sector. "It's widely acknowledged that the demographics mean that there are simply not enough young people coming in to fill the gaps left by people who are retiring," said John Hayes, shadow minister for vocational education.

The Government figures - which show that the number of students aged 19 and over in FE colleges fell by 16.9 per cent last year - were slipped out by the Learning and Skills Council very quietly the day before the launch of the Leitch report on skills, critics say. The statistics also reveal that the number in adult and continuing education slumped by nearly 10 per cent between 2004-2005 and 2005-2006, and in adult work-based learning by more than 4 per cent.

The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) declined to comment on the drop in numbers, stating that Labour had increased investment in FE by 48 per cent.

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