Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

UK approaches Brexit with strongest graduate jobs market since the recession: New report

The unemployment rate for graduates six months after leaving university is 5.7%, a significant fall from 6.3% in 2015.

Early unemployment rates below 6% signal a relatively strong jobs market for graduates, a level last seen during the pre-recession employment peak in 2007.

The annual What Do Graduates Do? report published today (3 November 2016) by Prospects and the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS) also reports that graduates are working in more professional roles with the proportion in non-graduate jobs after six months falling from 32% in 2015 to 29% in 2016.

Charlie Ball, head of higher education intelligence at Prospects said: “This year’s graduates can be reassured that we are approaching Brexit with a graduate jobs market that is in relatively good shape, certainly the best it has been for some time. By the start of next year, the large majority will be in work or in postgraduate study.

“Leaving the EU will disrupt our graduate labour market, but it won’t kill it. Although a hit to graduate career prospects is likely, the story of the UK economy will continue with increased reliance on highly skilled people to drive growth. However, exactly where the impact will fall and how large it will be is still highly uncertain, presenting challenges to careers and employability professionals supporting students and graduates.”

Elaine Boyes, AGCAS Executive Director, said: “These recent findings are encouraging and show that the skills and attributes of UK graduates are very much in demand by employers. We all have concerns about the potential effect of Brexit on the graduate labour market. AGCAS will continue to work with members, their institutions, the wider higher education community and employers to ensure the best outcomes for graduates of UK higher education.”

The number of first degrees awarded to UK domiciled graduates in 2014/15 was 312,330, down 25,900 on the previous year. As a consequence, the number known to have been in work after six months also fell from 199,810 in 2015 to 189,245 in 20161.

As fewer graduates entered the labour market, there are clear signs of a shortage in many occupations, notably in nursing, engineering, construction, teaching, IT and parts of the business services industry.

Charlie said: “It looks likely these areas will continue to experience shortages. The country is about to enter a prolonged period of falling numbers of 18 year olds. A decline in graduate numbers, similar to that we have seen this year, may become more common without policy drivers to increase university participation. Business and the economy has to accustom itself to the idea that the pool of available graduates may not continue to grow in the way we are used to over the next few years.”

Janice Montgomery, Chair of the AGCAS Education Liaison Task Group, added: “It is particularly good news that there has been a notable increase in the proportion of graduates working in professional roles. Uncertainties remain in the political arena but, based on these figures, there are grounds for some cautious optimism for current and future graduates.”

1 The response rate for the DLHE survey on which this report is based was 79.3%