I was fortunate to hear Sally Hyman from High Fliers speak at the end of last week at the ICAEW Careers Day, and highlight some of the key findings from this year’s UK Graduate Careers Survey. I thought it would be a useful exercise to highlight some of the key messages from the research findings.
For those of you who may not be familiar, the annual Higher Fliers survey may call itself a graduate survey but research actually takes place with approximately 18,000 final year students in the months preceding their graduation. So it is a look at their hopes, ambitions and job search activities, rather than their confirmed and final destinations. It should also be explained that research doesn’t cover students from all universities but, instead, focuses on 30 institutions that are frequently targeted by top tier graduate recruiters. Results may therefore be skewed a little, but it still gives us useful year-on-year information on trends. So what are some of the key findings from this year’s research?
Consulting is on the rise (but teaching is not)
Whilst marketing continues to be the number one target destination for students upon graduation (16.2% of total respondents), most notable is a rise in those wanting to enter careers in consulting. Not only is it now the second most popular choice, but it’s percentage share has risen 5% in the last few years alone. Teaching, on the other hand, has been showing a steady decline over the last few years and now stands at number four (behind media) despite being on the top spot just four years ago.
Undergraduates are feeling more optimistic
Findings from this year’s survey show a growing optimism in the labour market with, 25% expecting to be in a graduate job straight after graduation (the highest number in 12 years) and a total of 42% expecting to join the graduate job market sometime in 2014. Looking at university-specific results, this figure is particularly high amongst universities where placement courses are commonplace. There is also a growing trend toward those wanting to start their own business. On the flip side, there are decreasing numbers of students now considering postgraduate study or expecting to take ‘other’ work such as temporary or voluntary placements.
Job search activities are happening earlier
The High Fliers research show that a whopping 75% of those surveyed are now starting their job search in earnest before their final year. And they are not just researching early. 43% of total respondents had submitted applications by the end of October. Whilst this may, in part, be a reflection on some of the industries targeted by the surveyed students, it is still a rising trend in terms of year-on-year results. Students are now making an average of 7.5 applications each, which is a drop on previous years but perhaps showing growing recognition of the benefits of making a smaller number of targeted applications as well as another sign of rising student optimism.
More undergraduates are visiting their careers service
The good news for all of us is that 95% of surveyed students are engaging with their university careers service. Whilst this can mean anything from receiving emails to attending campus presentations, the amount of students visiting the careers service in person has risen an encouraging 5% since last year.
So, after a number of very tricky years, the overall picture is looking quite rosy. Faith has not quite been restored to levels prior to the recession but, if trends continue, it is all heading in the right direction. Which is good news, of course, for them. And for us.