The graduates of 2009 are facing the worst employment prospects for 20 years, an independent research company has discovered. High Fliers Research has reported that students have a “very slim” chance of getting a graduate-level job this summer, due to private sector companies scaling back their recruitment in the economic downturn.

Graduate positions in the City have been reduced by 47%, whilst this year’s private sector intake has decreased by 17%. An investigation by the Guardian has also revealed that students’ choice of university is more significant than ever, with some companies restricting their recruitment to just five top institutions. The University of Nottingham remains one of the most popular universities amongst employers along with Bristol, Cambridge, Durham, London, Manchester, Oxford and Warwick.

While the situation for graduates seems bleak, experts are emphasising the importance of having a little perspective and looking for alternative graduate opportunities. Jonathan Wadsworth of the Centre for Economic Performance at the LSE says that “prospects for young people are always more susceptible to the economic crisis” but assures students that “people with skills – graduates included – will be in a much better position than those without.”

President of the NUS Wes Streeting advises students to “research earlier on for jobs and think creatively about the options available to them”. Popular alternatives to seeking increasingly elusive graduate opportunities with the private sector include postgraduate study, with the Chartered Institute of Marketing recently reporting an upsurge in graduates applying for marketing courses. Further education in teaching has risen by 50% according to the Teaching and Development Agency. Employment in the public sector is also becoming a common choice for graduates, increasing by 51% since 2007.

Students’ changing expectations of employment following graduation reflects Streeting’s observation that “students are incredibly conscious of the fact that there is a bleak future facing them.”

 Justine Moat

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