The Association of Graduate Recruiters’ (AGR) winter survey has revealed was a 4.3 per cent rise in graduate vacancies in 2013, with continued demand for young recruits likely to drive a 10.2 per cent increase in graduate posts this year.
The findings from the bi-annual research suggest youth unemployment, currently at 20 per cent for 16-24 year olds, could be set to turn a corner.
According to the AGR, job prospects for students this year will be better than at any point since 2010, with around 23,000 vacancies likely to be on offer. Sectors showing the strongest levels of recruitment growth are IT and telecoms – with vacancies up by 40 per cent compared to last year, as well as public services (up 20 per cent), energy (up 18 per cent) and banking and financial services (up 16 per cent).
For sheer volume of jobs available, accountancy and professional services, the public sector, retail and investment banking/fund management are the most buoyant.
Stephen Isherwood, chief executive of the AGR, said: “Given the upturn in the economy, and the slight increase in graduate vacancies recorded last year, an expected rise of over 10 per cent is welcome news.”
Universities minister David Willetts described the rise as showing “confidence that the UK economy is growing,” adding: “Businesses really value the skills the UK’s first-rate graduates can bring to their companies.”
But the findings also show a mixed picture for graduates. The survey, which polled more than 200 employers, also found that those with traditionally strong graduate programmes were increasingly working directly with schools too. It found 55 per cent of its members were already active in the schools market, with a further 15 per cent saying that school-lever programmes form part of their future recruitment plans.
Isherwood said: “At the moment, it doesn’t appear that employers are replacing graduate vacancies with school-leaver vacancies. It shows businesses are investing in a range of different programmes to attract and recruit a diverse range of young people – from apprenticeships and higher apprenticeships, to school-leaver training leading to professional qualifications.”
But he accepted this was a metric that needs monitoring. He said: “It may be something which will begin to take hold in the future and we look forward to finding out in more detail how this section of the recruitment market is changing to meet the demands of UK plc.”
The AGR results follow a recent report by High Fliers Research, which showed employers are increasing their graduate intake by 8.7 per cent – the largest rise in recruitment for four years. It also found 11 out of 13 major employment areas were planning to take on more graduates in 2014 compared to 2013.