Big employers at this autumn’s graduate recruitment fairs are under pressure to attract more female applicants as new figures show that only 42% of hires to big training schemes are women – even though almost 60% of graduates are female.
The Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) said the proportion of female hires to graduate schemes had not improved in the last five years. That was despite a majority of big graduate employers running schemes to improve gender diversity, said the association, whose 300 members include BT, the Bank of England, Nestlé and Tesco.
“Gender diversity is an issue which requires more of our attention. Although our data cannot explain why women aren’t securing more graduate placements, it indicates there is more to be done to attract female graduates who in turn need to make the most of the opportunities available,” said AGR chief executive Stephen Isherwood.
“The message for our members is actively encouraging more women to apply.”
The report, based on responses from 205 employers which offered a total of more than 24,000 graduate vacancies over the last year, suggested graduate salaries are rising.
Average graduate salaries are up 3.7% from last year, rising from £27,000 to £28,000. The median salary after three years on the job was up by 4.5% to £35,000.
There was also fresh evidence on Tuesday that a significant proportion of university leavers are going into lower-skilled jobs.
Government figures on young graduates in England showed the proportion in high-skilled work had fallen markedly over the last decade.
The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) said 57% of graduates aged 21-30 were in high-skilled employment in the second quarter of this year. That compares with 63% in 2006.
The latest high-skilled employment figures mean the remaining 43% of young graduates were either unemployed, economically inactive or in jobs not classified as high-skilled.
The TUC described the figures as another worrying signal about the nature of the UK’s labour market.
“This is more evidence that the UK economy is shifting towards low-skill, low-productivity work. Without a new approach the investment and innovation that modern economies need will all take place abroad,” the TUC’s general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said.
But BIS said that graduates and postgraduates still had higher employment rates, higher average salaries and were more likely to work in high-skilled jobs than non-graduates.
It also reported that at 4.4%, the unemployment rate for young graduates was the lowest for a second quarter of the year since 2008, just before the financial crisis. The jobless rate for young non-graduates was 9.5%.
“Today’s figures continue to show the significant benefits of a degree for young people. Graduates under 30 are enjoying falling rates of unemployment and record earnings, on average,” said a spokesman for the department.
Isherwood at the AGR said graduates who gained work experience during their degrees, looked beyond London for jobs and prepared well for interviews had good prospects.
“I think things are looking bright for graduates. If you are a graduate you are more likely to be in work and you are more likely to be in better paid work,” he said.
Growth in graduate vacancies was broad-based over the last year but some sectors in particular ramped up their recruitment, notably accounting and professional services, the public sector and engineering and industrial firms, the AGR said.
“About half of AGR members don’t fill all their vacancies. In areas like IT and engineering they struggle the most. Often what they find is candidates who have the right technical skills but not the soft skills,” said Isherwood.
The annual survey also suggested graduates were staying with their training scheme providers.
“Despite the perception that all graduates are job-hoppers, graduates stay with our employer members for an average of five years. What’s more, only 6% leave in their first year on the job,” said Isherwood.
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