The Office of National Statistics has announced that 47% of recent graduates are working in non-graduate jobs. The ONS describes these as jobs that do not require degrees, with the examples given as care workers, factory workers, sales assistants or secretaries. This strikes as quite a shocking statistic. Why are there so many educated people working in lower skilled positions? Why are thousands and thousands of people spending thousands and thousands of pounds on an education that is no longer a passport to higher salaries, better career prospects and better opportunities?
We took to asking our Twitter followers why they thought this was. Loads of our followers joined in the Twitter discussion, touting their two cents on the matter. Many of them had differing views on why nearly half of recent graduates are finding employment in non-graduate jobs.
Probably the main issue that our graduate followers suggested was that there are just not enough opportunities to meet the amount of graduates in the market. This point of view is valid. Many of the bigger graduate employers, the big companies who have massive graduate intakes were hit hard during the financial crash of 2008 and 2009. Companies limited their intake and limited their expenditure on recruitment and wages. Many were forced to work with what they already had and down size their operations.
Now that the economy has apparently turned a corner companies will hopefully begin to ramp up their graduate recruitment and start competing over the best talent from the graduate market. The ONS highlights this with the amount of graduates that were in non-graduate jobs in 2001 which stood at 37%.
A few of the Tweets phrased it as a supply and demand issue that is contributing to graduates being underemployed. The amount of people attending university has been rapidly increasing since even before the introduction of tuition fees in 1998, as one follower pinned the whole problem on Tony Blair.
Whether it's experience or proven skills, employers have been setting higher application requirements as to limit the amount of graduates that would be accepted. I would argue that this is also a result of the economic crash. Companies can now afford to be picky with the amount of graduates available, but also companies have to be selective about the graduates they are employing with fewer places available.
Can this account for almost half the graduates being in non-graduate jobs? Probably. Graduate recruiters are still cutting their cloth accordingly but graduates are still flooding into, and out of, universities. While the backlog of highly educated graduates out there will slowly be cleared, it appears that the financial crash is still hitting everyone.
However, this still leaves graduates needing employment and being forced to take what they can get, whether it be care work or as a secretary. One thing that graduates should always remember is that this work is not totally irrelevant to long term career aims. Many of these jobs can provide good skills that can be applicable in 'graduate jobs'. Things like communication, customer service or professional office conduct and etiquette are all valuable skills employers would be impressed by when graduates look to work their way up the employment ladder.