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Job optimism falls among UK graduates

Only half are positive about securing a job, signalling issues with declining social mobility

Mounting student debt, high living costs, and insufficient starting salaries were all listed as barriers for young people entering the job market. Job optimism among graduates dropped from 65.3% in January 2017 to 53.1% in January 2018, a survey by student careers network Magnet found.

Vincent Karremans, founder and MD of Magnet, said: “Perceptions of how Brexit and the economy are being handled are driving job optimism in young people… The government and employers can do more to provide clarity and confidence for young people as they enter the labour market.”

A worrying three-quarters (74.5%) of the survey respondents said they were not inspired by the UK’s economic signals, Brexit negotiations, or political stability in the event of a ‘hard’ Brexit.

Graduates also said they were willing to forgo their chosen career to relieve the financial pressures of attending university (79.5%). The majority (68.4%) felt they needed to earn £27,000 or above to absorb living costs, a figure significantly higher than the average graduate starting salary of £19,000 to £22,000.

Meanwhile, almost a third (29.6%) said that they were contemplating joining the gig economy until they could secure a job, while a quarter (23.2%) said they would take up unpaid work or internships to gain experience.

Norman Pickavance, co-founder of the Centre for Organisational Renewal, said the findings call for a radical new approach towards training and graduate roles in order to restore young people's faith in their career prospects.

“The fact that young people are considering entering the gig economy right at the start of their careers shows that there has been very little progress in the way of social mobility,” he told HR magazine.

“There is a requirement for government to look beyond the traditional routes of school leading directly to university and a career. While this old model is fast coming to an end, what we haven’t done is create an alternative to invest in young people and to encourage them. The job market has changed dramatically but the education system hasn’t.”

Pickavance added that HR professionals play an important role in helping graduates navigate an uncertain economic climate. “While the economic and political climate might look bleak for graduates, HR can help by investing in graduate schemes and moving with the changing job market.”