Grad salaries frozen for almost a decade

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​As university choices come into focus for young people across the UK, the outlook for the graduate job market is mixed

Demand for graduates remains high but grad starting salaries have been frozen for almost ten years, according to XpertHR.

The research found that this year’s graduates are heading into a robust recruitment market, with eight out of 10 employers (79%) taking on new recruits in 2018/2019. Employers are typically taking on as many or more graduates than they did in previous years, with demand high for graduates to fill engineering, marketing and sales roles.

However, the research also revealed that employers have not increased their graduate starting salaries for a decade, with data from previous surveys in the annual series showing no change since 2008/2009.

Of the 214 public and private sector employers surveyed, the median graduate starting salary was found to be frozen at £24,000 – the same level as a decade ago. Larger employers tended to offer higher graduate starting salaries, with companies of over 1,000 employees offering between £23,000 and £27,000, compared to companies with less than 250 employees, where graduates typically earn a salary in the range of £20,000 to £25,500. The overall range of salaries on offer is wide, running from £15,750 to £55,000.

XpertHR managing editor for pay and HR practice Sheila Attwood said that graduates will “feel the squeeze” of this low pay.

“There is mixed news for recent graduates from our survey. Employers are generally keen to take on graduates and recognise the value that they have to offer. But the evidence shows that pay has not kept pace with rising prices over recent years and, in common with other employees, they will feel the squeeze,” she said.

The survey also found that employers are starting to look beyond the traditional graduate recruitment model.

Degree apprenticeships – which allow employees to balance their work with study for a degree-equivalent apprenticeship qualification – were found to be increasingly popular with employers as an alternative to graduate recruitment. More than one-third (31%) of employers surveyed said they offer degree apprenticeships or plan to do so.

Attwood suggested these may become an even more attractive option to young people in light of pay freezes.

“Some students receiving their A-level results this year might instead consider a degree apprenticeship rather than a traditional degree. These are increasingly popular with employers, and offer candidates a chance to earn a wage while they gain work experience and study for a degree-equivalent qualification,” she said.

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