Graduates will have to work harder and be prepared to be more flexible if they are to find career jobs this year, employers have warned. A 3.4 per cent drop in graduate vacancies, coupled with continuing growth in the number of graduates chasing jobs, means that some will find it "extremely difficult" to secure suitable full-time employment, the Association of Graduate Recruiters has said.
The AGR's survey of employers that recruit graduates shows that last year's 6.5 per cent fall in vacancies was not a blip, but the beginning of a new downward trend that will force graduates to seek more diverse employment opportunities.
AGR's chief executive Carl Gilleard warned that the tougher jobs market meant it was now important for the government and institutions to manage the expectations of students hoping to land well-paid jobs on graduation.
"We have to get across to graduates that when they first leave university they may not get the job of their dreams. In fact, for some it will be extremely difficult to get into the graduate jobs market.
"There is a message there for the way we market higher education and the way students use their time at university. We need to emphasise the importance of career management skills, because it's a tough world out there."
This survey found that the average number of applications received by employers for each graduate vacancy increased in 2002-03 to 42.1, compared with 37.2 in the previous year.
The largest numbers of graduate vacancies for 2003 was in accountancy or professional services firms, engineering or industrial companies, law firms and retailers. The biggest fall in graduate numbers were at investment banks or fund managers, where vacancies fell by a third. There were also significant cuts in graduate positions in the oil, chemical and pharmaceutical industries, and in IT, consulting and business service firms.
The good news is that graduates who are successful in their applications can expect a decent starting salary. The median annual pay for newly recruited graduates rose this year by 4.1 per cent to £20,300, with one in five employers offering starting salaries of £25,000 or more.
The highest starting salaries can be found in investment banking, consulting, law firms, and actuarial work, with some new recruits earning up to £35,000. The worst paid jobs were in science, research and development and electrical/electronic engineering.