The average graduate starting salary will reach £30,000 this year for the first time. The numbers recruited at leading employers is set to reach its highest level for more than a decade, vindicating the decision to attend university for the first generation to pay £9,000 a year in tuition fees.
However, those with no work experience or internships under their belt face disappointment, the Graduate Market 2015 report warned. A third of this year’s graduate positions will be filled by those who have already worked for organisations through internships and placements or during holidays, according to High Fliers Research which produced the annual survey of The Times top 100 graduate employers.
Three quarters of graduate vacancies advertised by City investment banks and half the training contracts offered by leading law firms are likely to be filled by graduates who already have work experience at those companies. Nearly half of recruiters said that graduates who had no previous work experience at all were unlikely to be successful during the selection process.
Apple, BT, Dyson, the Army, Google, HSBC, John Lewis and the NHS were among the employers polled last month. The average salary for graduate positions was £29,000 from 2010-13, rising to £29,500 last year. Competition for the best recruits has driven it up to £30,000 this year. Companies increased their graduate recruitment by 7.9 per cent last year and are set to expand by a further 8.1 per cent this year. More than a quarter of graduate vacancies were cut in 2008 and 2009 at the beginning of the recession, and recruitment dipped again in 2012 before returning to growth in 2013.
“At the start of the 2013-2014 graduate recruitment season in September 2013, it was clear a much more buoyant mood had returned,” the report said. Employers in nine out of 13 major employment areas are preparing to take on more new graduates this year, with the biggest increases at public sector employers, accounting and professional services, banking and finance, retailers and the Armed Forces, which together expect to recruit more than 1,200 extra graduates.
Employers are providing an unprecedented number of paid work experience places this year for university students and recent graduates. The largest recruiters will be Teach First, which fast-tracks top graduates into teaching (2,060 vacancies), the professional services firm PwC (1,570 vacancies) and Deloitte (1,100 vacancies).
More than a quarter of top graduate programmes will pay new recruits more than £35,000 and four organisations are offering salaries higher than £45,000. Aldi, the retailer, will pay £42,000 and the European Commission is offering £41,500. The most generous salaries last year were on offer from investment banks, an average of £45,000, law firms, averaging £40,000, and in banking and finance, £36,500.
Comment from Steve Young – Locally here in Thame, Oxfordshire, graduate salaries have been around the £17,000-£21,000 area depending on the skills and university degree obtained.