Despite recent headlines, it’s not all bad news for graduates

By Andrew Scherer

“Fall in graduate vacancies sees 85 apply for each job” warned a recent BBC News headline, reporting on the publication of the annual Association of Graduate Recruiter (AGR) survey. “This summer’s university leavers face a tougher jobs market,” the article began grimly, “with a forecast of a 4% fall in graduate vacancies.” On the face of it, more bad news for university leavers saddled with mountains of debt and clutching degrees seemingly unvalued by many employers.

I am here, however, to debunk a few myths and give the other side of the story. The most important thing for graduates to remember is that the AGR report gives a snapshot of the big graduate schemes. Big graduate schemes that employ just 4% of graduates. In essence, this means that the AGR report is pretty much irrelevant for a whopping 96% of graduates.

Instead of joining a big employer, the vast majority of university leavers will start their careers in a junior role at a smaller company. The days when grad schemes were the be all and end all for students are long gone. As such, reports such as the AGR’s summer survey do not fully reflect the reality of graduate job-hunting. Which is why it annoys me that major news outlets give such weight to the results of the survey. There is enough negativity around going to university as it is; we could do without skewed surveys being blasted across the media painting overly pessimistic pictures of graduate employment prospects.

Instead of relying on limited surveys from large associations, why don’t journalists do a bit of research and dig up positive stories from smaller firms? These businesses would be hugely grateful for the media coverage and such a collection of stories would reflect more accurately what is happening at the coal-face of graduate employment.

At Inspiring Interns we predominantly work with small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and our experience is that more and more businesses are looking at hiring graduates. Often this is done through internships, which give the company a chance to train up a candidate and see them in their workplace; on the other side of the coin it allows a graduate to establish if a role and a company is right for them. Because these roles are not specifically designated for graduates and SME activity is notoriously difficult to measure you will not find these jobs appearing in many official reports or surveys. But they do exist and they represent the reality of the graduate job market.

So next time you see doom-mongering headlines about the scarcity of graduate jobs, remember to check the source of the ‘facts’ behind the story and take any dire warnings with a suitably-sized pinch of salt.

Andrew James Scherer was thrust into this world in 1986 and from the moment he was born knew he was destined for the top…of the marketing department at Inspiring Interns. Scherer somehow persuaded Inspiring to take him on in November 2009 and has been immovable since. Can be found @scheza on Twitter. You can also connect with Andrew on Google+!