MARK PATTERSONNON-EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
JULIAN MALINS Q.C.NON-EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
GRADUATE CAREERS IN THE UK
The development of the landscape
The expansion and progression of graduate careers in the UK has its origins in the decision of Tony Blair’s governmental era which stated a target of 50% of school leavers to enter university. This was because there was a clear recognition that the UK had transformed from a primary and secondary sector economy, e.g. coal mining and manufacturing, to a services economy. There had to be a well-educated workforce to meet the requirements of employers.
Added to this was the establishment of the free movement of EU citizens between countries to live and work as they pleased. With London expanding quickly as a global centre of professional services (in particular Financial Services) international companies located here became a magnet for highly educated, highly motivated graduates from across the European Union and beyond.
UK graduates quickly discovered that they did not have a special advantage because they were native to the country. They had to improve their job hunting capabilities as they came up against graduates from the EU who spoke at least two languages to a good, if not, professional standard. Those that came from outside the EU found that to enter the UK job market they needed two things in addition to English language skills: a degree from a UK (or EU) institution and a visa sponsor.
How graduate jobs have expanded
The UK Government’s Department for Business Innovation & Skills latest statistics (published April 2016) clearly display the benefits of having a degree in employability; this demonstrates that the UK continues its focus and path on being a highly educated services economy.
The report quotes ‘In 2015, graduates and postgraduates had higher employment rates, with a greater proportion in high-skilled employment, lower unemployment rates, lower inactivity rates and higher median salaries than non-graduates.’
In addition, the UK’s economic strength (Brexit Blip aside) as it emerged from the Great Recession also showed good news for Graduates, ‘In 2015, both graduate and non-graduate employment rates returned to their prerecession levels … Graduates and postgraduates were more protected from unemployment during the recession than non-graduates. Unemployment rates recovered to approximately pre-recession levels for all groups by 2015’.
In conclusion, Graduates still have the best path to career success in the UK, were better protected in the hard years of the recession, and have now almost recovered to pre-recession levels. This is the best time in eight years to be a graduate entering the UK economy.
The graph below provided by the UK government clearly shows the recovering employability of graduates from 2008 to 2016, and their premium compared to non-graduates.
Crucially, it also demonstrates that young graduates are only slightly worse off than the full working population. This means that, unlike other parts of Europe, young graduates are not being sacrificed to keep older people in jobs; the future is bright for young people in the UK.
How much you can earn
Graduate salaries command a premium in the UK economy; this has not changed and is highly unlikely to change because the UK intends to continue on being a highly skilled Services economy. With a Tier 2 visa requiring a minimum salary of £20,800 or £23,000 (dependent on profession) it’s necessary to understand what salary can be expected from a graduate job. The good news is that the government’s own statistics show that the median salary was £24,000 in 2015 for 21-30 year olds, increasing by another £12,000 for the age bracket 31-40.
What International Students Find Difficult
The UK is an international country with many different traditions within its own peoples and those that have been brought by other waves of settlers; the first is no different to most countries in the world. But, what can be difficult to adjust to is the Business Culture of the UK, with some variations between regions.
Any graduate must understand that UK employers pay a good salary with the expectation that they will get a motivated, energetic student who understands the value system of the company and the UK. An academic qualification is just the starting point, it gets you in the door to be assessed; personality, energy and drive are what get you the job. It’s these types of graduates that fill the open positions in the UK.
The future for International Students
The UK government changed the rules in 2011(?) to clamp down on abusers of visas; this had the unfortunate effect of drawing in the good students as well as the bad. It is clear that companies are still after the best graduates no matter where they come from and will consider the best ways to get them in. The impending Brexit will also change matters depending on how negotiations are concluded, it is possible that Non EU students will claw back some advantage if EU citizens do not have the automatic right to work, but this should not