Graduate vacancies surge past pre-Covid levels

Graduate job vacancies in the UK are now a fifth higher than they were before the Covid-19 pandemic struck early in 2020, according to a new survey.

Graduate holding CV close in job interview
The Vacancy Survey 2022, conducted by the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) among major companies with large graduate intakes, also found that job vacancies for graduates are expected to increase by 22% this year compared to 2021.
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Sectors expecting the largest jobs growth this year are the built environment, energy, engineering, and health and pharmaceuticals. The survey found that, since 2019, graduate vacancies had risen by 67% in the built environment, 42% in digital and IT, and 24% in health and pharmaceuticals.Only the public sector and charities are likely to see a year-on-year reduction in graduate jobs and, even in this sector, the cut in vacancies from 2021 still leaves them at a higher level than they were pre-pandemic.In fact, all sectors have returned to or exceeded pre-pandemic graduate hiring levels with the exception of jobs in retail and FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods).

'A student-driven market'

"There is evidence that recruitment has returned to a student-driven market," reported ISE. "While competition for graduate jobs reached a record high in 2021, nearly half of graduate employers reported that they had received fewer applicants than this time last year. This is due to more graduate vacancies and difficulties engaging students with online careers events now they have returned to campus."However, the survey also found that 18% of employers reported that the quality of graduate applicants had fallen and stressed that, to be successful, students needed to focus on career planning and application readiness.

'Focus on job-readiness'

Stephen Isherwood, Chief Executive of ISE, said: “The number of graduate jobs has slowly increased but this is the first time we’ve seen hiring back to pre-pandemic levels. It demonstrates business confidence and how much employers continue to value a degree.“This is great news for those job hunting. The hike in vacancies means a return to a student-driven market. However, with a significant number of employers noting a drop in the quality of applicants, students should be aware of resting on their laurels.“The graduate labour market is and always has been competitive. While students should feel confident about their prospects, they need to apply themselves rigorously to their job search and make every application count.”

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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