Graduate employers ‘not harnessing talent’ as 7 in 10 workers feel underemployed in their first job

Findings come as separate report shows today’s young people have had the 'bad luck' of entering the jobs market at a tough time, meaning their lifetime earnings could be 'permanently scarred'

Aftab Ali
Student Editor
Thursday 28 July 2016 11:53
New study comes as Hesa employment data shows over 50,000 new graduates are in jobs that don't even require a degree
New study comes as Hesa employment data shows over 50,000 new graduates are in jobs that don't even require a degree

Seven in ten university graduates say they feel underemployed in their first job, suggesting employers are not harnessing the talent of their employees, according to an annual study.

Accenture Strategy’s UK University Graduate Employment Study has found this number to have increased by nine per cent on 2015, as almost nine out of ten of those say they plan to leave their first employer within five years.

With today’s graduates being more focused and driven than ever, entering the job market well-prepared and ready to commit to their career, overall, the study has found employers are not making the most of this mindset.

Growing up in an age of austerity, surrounded by job fears and escalating tuition fees, has meant almost eight out of 10 students graduating this year considered the job market before selecting their area of study. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects remain the most popular, with almost a third of students choosing such courses at university.

In addition to careful subject selection, more students are stopping at the traditional three-year degree - up from 83 per cent in 2015, to 89 per cent today - which requires less tuition fees while allowing them to get started with their career sooner.

The majority of graduates are also willing to complete an internship or work overtime during evenings or weekends, 67 per cent and 60 per cent respectively, and more than three quarters are willing to relocate for a job.

The study has come in the same week the challenging graduate job market has been under intense scrutiny. According to a Resolution Foundation report, today’s young people have had the “bad luck” of entering the jobs market at a tough time, meaning their lifetime earnings could be “permanently scarred.” Highlighting a “generational pay penalty,” the findings highlighted how millennials are at risk of being the first generation to earn £8,000 less in their 20s than their predecessors.

Female students have also told a separate survey they expect to make over £3,300 a year less than their male counterparts in their first graduate job - indicating that women may be “primed” to expect lower earnings from a young age - even though they perform better in their studies than men. The startling finding emerged from the National Student Money Survey 2016 which asked university students to estimate their starting salary post-graduation; while the average given by male students came in at £22,988, for female students it was just £19,662, a massive 14 per cent cut.

Accenture Strategy’s managing director, Payal Vasudeva, however, said of the new employment study: “This all sounds like good news for employers - a cohort of graduates completing their formal education focused on their career and flexible about their hours and location. The challenge lies in best harnessing the talents of these graduates, and satisfying their drive and ambition to, not only attract, but also retain the top performers.”

Graduates are also more selective about the type of organisation they want to work for, with only 24 per cent saying they want to work for a large company. Vasudeva continued: “Going to university has become a huge financial decision. Graduates want to feel the time and money spent on a degree is being recouped through the use of their skills at work, but the number of recent graduates who end up in a job that doesn’t require their degree is growing.”

Vasudeva was making reference to recent data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency which showed over 50,000 new graduates are in non-graduate jobs - including lollipop ladies, factory workers, and hospital porters - leading experts to question the value of costly university degrees in the Brexit climate.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of social mobility charity, the Sutton Trust, described how, while university education still leads to professional employment for a majority of graduates, it’s “worrying” that over one in four is not in a graduate job six months after graduation.

He said: “We need to ensure young people get much better information about the earnings and job opportunities linked to each degree course, and that the Government expands the number of higher and degree apprenticeships. Universities should do more to prepare students for employment, and we need more paid internships recruited on merit.”

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