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Gap Year a Bad Idea for Confused Graduates

The uncertainty around the graduate job market has spiked this week, with two surveys coming out with differing conclusions. This is against a background of the increasing likelihood that there will be many more applicants than university places to fit them this year, putting further pressure on an already creaking employment outlook.

The good news is that the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) has published the winter edition of its twice-yearly survey on the state of the job market for graduates, with the conclusion the climate will ease for new starters. Falls in vacancies for university leavers should stabilise this year, with an upswing in 2011 -- the first in three years.

The biggest recruiters in 2010 are likely to be in financial services and the oil industry. Accounting will also be a big graduate employer, providing 18 per cent of the year's vacancies. The public sector, traditionally a safe bet, when employment goes south expects to cut graduate jobs by 7.5 per cent this year.

The average starting wage will stay frozen at £25,000, although the top earners in investment banking will start nearer £38,000. The industries with the biggest increases in starting salaries are construction, transport and IT.

Now the bad news. A survey by recruitment outsourcer Alexander Mann Solutions found half of the class of 2009 are still looking for jobs that require a degree. As a result, there are an increasing number of graduates prepared to take any job for now rather than continue searching for the one they really want. That has serious implications recruiters and managers who want to replenish their talent pool with engaged and loyal new employees.

It appears graduates will be disappointed with the jobs on offer, with the public sector being the most popular choice. Banking on the other hand is not nearly so desirable, prompting the question how have educators managed students expectations so badly?

Should any graduates be disenchanted with the lack of vacancies in their chosen area of work, ducking out of the job market altogether is ill advised. The employers who belong to the AGR take a dim view of post-graduate courses taken merely to wait out the economic downturn or gap years travelling the globe. Any work experience is better than none.

Any graduates looking for a good first job would do well to browse the Best Companies website. Here's some of the companies on this year's list that have been marked out as graduate-friendly.

  • Mace: A consultancy specialising in the construction industry is offering places on its graduate management training programme to new starters with good relevant degrees. Two thirds of its 1,900 staff over 13 UK sites earn over £35,000 pa.
  • Lexis Public Relations: Based in London, this company is running two intakes of its graduate recruitment programme. Applicants must write a response to a PR-related exercise. Trainees start on £18,000pa. 45 per cent of this 100-strong female dominated company earn over £35,000 pa.
  • Micheal Page International: This graduate recruitment consultant would be expected to have a progressive graduate recruitment strategy. It has a number of graduate vacancies for intakes in July and August. Traineeships are spread across the company's 55 sites in the UK.
  • Deloitte: This management consultancy has over 11,000 employees. It is looking for five graduates in its present intake for a range of roles including audit, tax, technology, consultancy and enterprise risk services technology. All employees get an extra day's holiday, called Deloitte Day and the company sends everyone a gift at Christmas.
(PIc: Ed Yourdon cc2.0)
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