The number of graduate jobs on offer shrunk by nearly 8 per cent this year as employers reacted to Brexit and shifted their focus to apprenticeships, a survey says.
The 154 companies who provided comparable data for the Association of Graduate Recruiters’ annual survey said that they had 19,732 graduate-level positions to fill for 2016, compared with 21,427 last year (down 7.9 per cent).
This followed four years of significant growth and survey respondents said that the UK’s vote to leave the European Union had had a significant impact on their plans.
The survey was conducted over five weeks in June and July and shows a significant shift from an AGR survey conducted at the start of this year, which predicted that the number of graduate vacancies would grow by 2 per cent.
The apprenticeship levy is also having a major impact, with the number of apprentice vacancies increasing by 13 per cent year-on-year, to 10,095.
More than one in 10 employers who responded to the survey said that they were turning some graduate roles into higher apprenticeships as a result of the levy, which will require all large employers to make an investment in apprenticeships from April 2017 onwards.
The combined total of vacancies for graduate jobs and apprenticeships decreased 3 per cent year-on-year.
Stephen Isherwood, the AGR’s chief executive, said that Brexit would have a significant impact over the year ahead.
“The labour market for young people is shrinking for the first time since the financial crisis, but the composition of the market is also changing as employers invest more in school-leaver programmes and apprenticeships,” Mr Isherwood said.
“The uncertainty of Brexit is the single biggest challenge facing recruiters in the year ahead. Competition for skills and the looming apprenticeship levy are also significant concerns.”
AGR data show that the biggest decline in graduate vacancies was in the retail sector (down 15.6 per cent year-on-year), with significant drops also being reported in engineering (down 13.6 per cent) and construction (down 11.5 per cent). IT and telecommunications was the only sector to report continuing growth (up 5.4 per cent).