Students graduating from Northern Ireland’s universities this summer face very stiff competition for jobs and a starting salary of just £13,000, according to a new report.
As graduation ceremonies resumed today at Queen’s University and the University of Ulster, the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) today warned that an average of 48 graduates will be chasing every job and that vacancies have plummeted by 24.9% this year.
The gloomy figures are contained in the association’s summer edition of its bi-annual survey.
Ciarnan Helferty, the President of Queen's Students' Union, said graduates will be worried about future job prospects but added that he hoped the bleak job prospects would soon improve.
IT, engineering, construction and investment banking have all seen dramatic job cuts of more than 40%, with IT and banking worst hit. The only sector to buck the trend is energy, water or utilities with a 7.1% rise in vacancies.
Northern Ireland is well below the average graduate starting salary of £25,000 at £20,166.
A majority of the UK’s employers (57.7%) are offering graduate employees salaries of between £22,001 and £27,000 this year.
London, as always, is leading the way with an average starting salary of £29,000.
Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the AGR, said: “I wish we had better news to announce today but we cannot hide from the fact that dramatic vacancy cuts will make the job search very tough for graduates both this year and probably next year too.
“However, It is important to look at this in context and to point out that very few employers have abandoned their graduate recruitment programmes altogether and most are likely to reinstate recruitment levels at the first sign of an upturn in the economy.
“I would also like to reassure graduates that though things will be harder, their degree is a valuable asset and that there are still opportunities out there for those who do their research and focus on quality rather than quantity of applications.
“The AGR continues to campaign on behalf of graduate recruitment in the UK and over the next year we will be focussing all our efforts on discouraging short-termism and ensuring employers do not back away from their graduate schemes”.
Mr Helferty said: “It is such a pity that in such a short period of time students who have spent three to seven years at university may not get a return on their investment in the near future.
“A lot of students will be worried about what they are going to do for the next few years.
“They went to university with the aim of getting a good job at the end of it.
“However, higher education is still beneficial and hopefully the short term difficulties we face will be corrected in the short to medium term.”
The AGR is the independent voice of graduate recruitment in the UK and its bi-annual survey provides the most extensive and detailed insight into the state of the graduate jobs market.
Today’s edition is based on the responses of 226 graduate recruiters in the UK across 15 sectors who will employ a total of 12,650 graduates in 2009.