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Competition for graduate jobs at a “record high”

Competition for graduate jobs in the UK has reached a record high this year after soaring applications and a lack of rebound in recruitment, according a new student survey.

Some of the most popular roles, in retail, FMCG and tourism, received over 180 applications per vacancy. Photo: iStock

Some of the most popular roles, in retail, FMCG and tourism, received over 180 applications per vacancy

The Institute of Student Employers’ Student Recruitment Survey 2021 showed an average of 91 applications per graduate vacancy – a 17% increase on 2020 and a record for ISE records.

Popular areas, with 155 people applying, included jobs in health and pharmaceuticals, while financial and professional services followed close behind with 118 applications per vacancy.

Despite a growth of 9% in the graduate jobs market in the last year, pre-pandemic levels are still not being seen.

“This highlights the genuine struggle for young people to find work during the pandemic,” said Stephen Isherwood, CEO of ISE.

“There just aren’t enough roles and we’re not yet back to 2019 levels”

“Despite employers wanting more young people than last year, there just aren’t enough roles and we’re not yet back to 2019 levels.”

Work experience was also included in the survey, which has been one of the biggest casualties of the pandemic, with opportunities falling by around a third in 2020.

The survey also “highlighted the importance of work experience in getting a graduate job” – 60% of former interns and placement students were hired into graduate roles in 2021.

More generally, when it came to work experience, internships increased by 23% and work placements increased by 7%, with an average of 83 and 82 applicants to each internship and work placement respectively.

Those numbers indicated a 2% increase on internship applications, but a 17% drop in work placement applications.

“Competition for jobs has been fierce but, assuming the economy continues to recover, things should get easier over the next year when we expect a return to pre-pandemic hiring,” said Isherwood.

ISE also joined on a project with the International Student Employability Group earlier in the year to weather the storm on an international scale.

Recruiting International Graduates: A Guide for Employers endeavoured to explain the many possible ways to hire international graduates no matter where they have studied, or where there permanent residence is.

It also offered information about the new graduate route, which allows graduates from outside the UK to stay in the country for up to two years – or three if they have a PhD – to look for work.

It also examined the skilled worker route, explaining that workers can even start before they have finished their course in certain circumstances.

While employers are predicting that growth “across all areas” will continue and should hit and exceed pre-pandemic levels over the next year, Isherwood did give those looking for jobs and placements some advice.

“Students shouldn’t spray and pray. They are not the people who get the jobs, it’s better to target and tailor, and make the right application to the right employer,” he explained.

“University careers teams are there to help with this process and will be able to offer the best advice.”

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