The UK’s professional body for human resources has complained that there are too many overqualified university leavers entering non-graduate jobs.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development said that the government should launch a “large scale review” of the education system as it suggested that there may be more cost-effective ways of preparing young people for the labour market than sending them to university.
Its report, Over-qualification and Skills Mismatch in the Graduate Labour Market, says that the growth in the number of university leavers is “significantly outstripping” the growth in the provision of high-skilled jobs.
Drawing on data from the European Social Survey, it claims that 58.8 per cent of UK graduates are in non-graduate jobs, a percentage that was exceeded only in Greece and Estonia.
The report also claims that skill levels required for many jobs that now attract graduates have not increased significantly in recent years.
Peter Cheese, the CIPD’s chief executive, said that students receiving GCSE and A-level results this summer may be better off starting an apprenticeship than higher education.
“The assumption that we will transition to a more productive, higher value, higher skilled economy just by increasing the conveyor belt of graduates is proven to be flawed,” Mr Cheese said. “Simply increasing the qualification level of individuals going into a job does not typically result in the skill required to do the job being enhanced – in many cases that skills premium, if it exists at all, is simply wasted.”
Mr Cheese described the situation as being “unsustainable” when, according to predictions, more than 40 per cent of university graduates will not earn enough to repay their student loans.
“It’s crucial we as a nation take stock now of whether our higher education system is delivering desired returns for graduates, for organisations, and society,” he added.
The CIPD report says that the government should focus on creating more high-skilled jobs and improving the quantity and quality of apprenticeships.
It also says that employers should review their processes to ensure that they are not using a requirement for a degree as a “screening process” when recruiting for jobs that do not require a university education.
In contrast to the data used by the CIPD, the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey found that 68 per cent of graduates who left UK universities in 2014 were in graduate-level jobs within six months of leaving.
Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, said that UK graduates were “still in a substantially better position to obtain a job and, on average, earn substantially more than non-graduates over a working lifetime”.
“Many graduates do not go straight into their chosen careers after graduating. Some will get short-term jobs to fund further study or to go travelling. Employment figures looking at what graduates are doing three and a half years after graduation show that the vast majority are in full-time employment,” she added.