Education & Family

Work experience 'key to job hunt' for graduates

Recruitment fair
Image caption Graduate jobs are up this year - but there are more people competing for vacancies

Job-hunting graduates in the UK need work experience to stand a chance of getting a job with many employers, a recruitment survey suggests.

The High Fliers' graduate jobs survey, based on 100 leading employers, shows a more optimistic jobs market, with 9% more vacancies than last year.

But the survey says the graduate jobs market has still not recovered to its pre-recession levels.

This will mean a "highly competitive" recruitment round, says the survey.

The survey - The Graduate Market in 2011 - suggests a jobs market that is showing signs of improvement, but has yet to return to the buoyant levels of 2007, before the financial crisis.

Foot in the door

Graduate vacancies slumped through 2008 and 2009 - but despite growing confidence among employers there are on average 6% fewer graduate starter jobs than four years ago.

University leavers are also competing against a record number of graduates - 50,000 more than in 2007 - and the survey suggests that employers are looking for more than academic qualifications.

In particular, work experience is seen as a way of improving job chances.

One in three entry-level jobs are being taken by graduates who have already worked for a company - such as in work placements.

The importance of this link is even greater in investment banking and law firms, where half the recruits have been former work experience students.

"In this highly-competitive graduate jobs market, new graduates who've not had any work experience during their time at university have little or no chance of landing a well-paid job with a leading employer, irrespective of the university they've attended or the academic results they achieve," said Martin Birchall, managing director of High Fliers Research.

For those graduates who find a job, average starting salaries have remained the same as last year, £29,000. But there are wide differences between employment sectors.

The average for those entering public sector jobs is £22,000, but those entering investment banks have an average starting salary of £42,000 and law firms have an average starting pay rate of £38,000.

Universities Minister David Willetts said: "Whilst we welcome signs of an improvement, the job market remains competitive for new graduates, as it does for everyone, and graduates need to work hard to maximise their chances of success. However, a degree remains a good investment in the long term."

Responding to the advantages of work experience, Mr Willetts highlighted that graduates could look for internships, without any charge, on the Graduate Talent Pool website.

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