July 17, 2024

What do graduates do? Report offers insight into graduate labour market in 2021

Author: kate.edser@jisc.ac.uk
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Prospects and Jisc’s annual What do graduates do? report launched on 7 December 2020, helping students to make more informed decisions about their careers.

The guide, created in partnership with the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS), is aimed at employers, policymakers, education providers and all those who support students.

Based on HESA’s Graduate Outcomes data, which surveyed 2017/18 graduates 15 months after they had left university, it indicates what a post-vaccine graduate labour market make look like.

Key findings:

6% graduate unemployment rate would signal recovery

Under normal circumstances, an early unemployment rate would be between 5% and 6% for graduates – unemployment was 5.5% for 2017/18 graduates. It may take some time to settle down to that level, but once it comes back to around 6%, the graduate labour market can be considered to have recovered

Postgraduate study will stabilise

Twelve percent of 2017/8 graduates were in further study and, in total, about 18% had taken a postgraduate course since graduation. For the next couple of years the figures are expected to increase slightly as postgraduate study always rises in a challenging labour market.

More than a third (36%) of 2020 finalists surveyed by Prospects indicated that they plan to remain in higher education rather than start their careers this year. As the economy starts to recover, entry to postgraduate study should stabilise to a similar level to 2017/18.

Fewer self-employed graduates

Self-employment has been badly hit by the pandemic, especially in the crucial arts sector. Normally around 4% of graduates are solely self-employed, but it’s closer to 8% once all graduates who have some form of self-employment as one of their activities are taken into account. This may be impacted in 2021 and until the arts recover, but it’s anticipated that around 3-4% of new graduates will be self-employed as their core activity next year.

Little change in ‘top five graduate jobs’

The most common jobs for graduates from 2017/18 were (in order) nurses (9,800), marketing (4,575), sales assistants (4,305), primary and nursery teachers (4,295) and programmers and software developers (4,160).

Most of these roles have been relatively lightly affected by the pandemic, so those numbers should largely hold up – except for sales assistants. The top five most common jobs are relatively consistent. It will be interesting to see whether a different role will enter the list next year. Doctors or secondary school teachers look to be the most likely for 2021.

Disrupted graduate migration trends

Sixty-six percent of 2017/18 graduates went to work in their home region of the UK. Will the rise of remote working mean that graduates become ostensibly more mobile and more willing or able to take jobs with employers based further afield? Or will graduates opt for familiar surroundings in an uncertain labour market? London’s jobs market has been the most affected of all the UK, so will this reduce the proportion working in the capital?

Charlie Ball, head of higher education intelligence for Prospects at Jisc, says: 

“Even if a vaccine is successfully rolled out, we can’t assume an automatic return to ‘normal’ for young people starting out in their careers next year. But by looking at what happened to the last graduating cohort pre-pandemic there are some clear signals that help us to predict what they may find.

“This insight should be used with the latest labour market information to help, guide and advise students on their first steps to a brilliant career.”

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