Science and construction fuel graduate employment surge

The revival of the science and construction industries has helped drive the biggest drop in UK graduate unemployment for 15 years, says new research.

September 26, 2014

Graduate employment

The annual What Do Graduates Do? report from the Higher Education Careers Services Unit (HESCU) found 7.3 per cent of recent university leavers were still out of work in January 2014, six months after they finished their degrees, compared with 8.5 per cent the year before. Graduate employment rose from 73.6 per cent to 75.6 per cent.

HESCU said the recovery of industries traditionally popular with graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects was a key factor in the improved figures.

The number of graduates working as science professionals increased 22.4 per cent year-on-year, with new biochemist and medical scientist positions accounting for much of this.

Employment outcomes for university leavers with first degrees in building and engineering disciplines were particularly strong – 83.6 per cent of architecture graduates were in work and just 6.1 per cent were unemployed. Occupations such as civil and mechanical engineering also saw big increases in the number of graduates working in them.

Computer science and IT graduates were most likely to be unemployed, with 13 per cent of course leavers still out of work six months on. Not far behind were media studies graduates, 11.7 per cent of whom were not in employment.

Charlie Ball, deputy director of research at HESCU, described the last 18 months as a “fascinating example of how quickly the market can change” and said prospective students should bear this in mind when looking at courses.

“The biggest turnaround has been the outcomes of graduates from STEM and construction-related subjects,” he said.

“It’s encouraging that STEM skills are so highly sought, but there is a complex story of demand and supply, so it’s vital that students seek careers advice early and take work experience to better inform their decisions and prepare for employment.”

HESCU reported that the proportion of recent graduates in non-professional jobs such as retail and catering fell from 13.7 per cent to 13 per cent in the year to January 2014.

Mature graduates did particularly well, with 77.2 per cent in professional or management positions six months on, compared with 66.3 per cent of all first-degree course leavers.

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Universities in most nations are now obliged to prioritise graduate career prospects, but how it should be approached depends on your view of the meaning of education. Academics need to think that through much more clearly, says Tom Cutterham


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