Once upon a time, going to university meant you were gold for employers and rewarded for years of hard work – furthering your education to Degree level was once uncommon, and a serious commitment. But when did going to university no longer make you one of the elite? Well, since numbers of university applications and acceptances has risen dramatically, including an increase in 3.5% for overseas applications to UK Universities, and a 2.8% rise in UK applications. This makes the graduate market a competitive one, and students are finding that it can be near impossible, if not entirely impossible, to become employed in the sectors they desire after graduation – leading to higher unemployment amongst graduates until better opportunity arises.

Due to such reasons, government figures have recently revealed that 9% of graduates are inactive; a figure that had previously reached lows of 4%, and meant more graduates were achieving their dreams. This 9% broken up into gender leaves an extraordinary 11% of males and 7% of female graduates jobless. Opportunity is no longer arising for those who spend three years plus studying to make a better future for themselves. Even degrees leading directly into careers, including Teaching and Dentistry, are finding that graduates are increasingly getting their qualification and remaining unemployed due to the competitive market; only those with alternate experience are gaining the roles. A graduate finds that a normal degree no longer helps to separate them from the crowd – now, instead of just asking for top grades, employers also ask for other acquirements.

Recent research suggests that students volunteering or gaining work experience alongside their degrees are the students that will have higher chances of employment in the field they want; employers require students with experience as well as knowledge. But is this too much to expect from students? Deadline pressures and heavier work schedules may lead students to ditch the work experience to focus on their studies, or to, more commonly, apply for paid work to help pay off their hefty student loans.

In these cases, students who have still worked hard to achieve their goals are being punished by competitive industries. Each new graduate sends approximately seven job applications out after graduation, with many being disappointed after hearing back from none of their submissions. The government are beginning to suggest paid internships are the new way to go for current studying students, giving the best of both worlds in regards to experience and payment, and such experience is said to triple a student’s chance of employment after graduation.

In order to avoid the dread of unemployment, many graduates are beginning to venture into voluntary or charity work in order to tide them over and help them to find something more permanent, and, let’s face it, something with better pay. Graduates tend to use this as a stepping stone for experience, but without paid work are still in the 9% of unemployed recent graduates. Graduate unemployment is also aided by students deciding to go travelling or partaking in other activities rather than immediately applying for jobs or postgraduate study.

Figures have recently stated that as much as a third of graduates end up working in sectors that don’t require a degree. Many go into bar or catering work just to avoid being jobless, but often end up on zero-hour contracts, meaning that they could still end up sitting at home, twiddling their thumbs. However, as a growing number of jobs currently require students to have experience in higher education, specifically at Degree level, many become at a loss over what to do, and rightly so.

Recent surveys have even suggested that male graduates are becoming more likely to suffer unemployment than female graduates. Why is it fair that a female with an Upper Second Class Degree, for instance, should be favoured over a male with the same qualification? Unless that female has an extraordinary advantage, such as work experience or studying abroad to help children in Africa, why are these applications viewed differently? If this makes little sense to you, the following will make even less. The Higher Education Statistics Agency have announced that when employed, the average pay tends to be higher for males than for females, despite job role and duties stating them to be equals. Shouldn’t this be motivation, if any, for male graduates to get out of bed and get some experience? After all, if they don’t, it looks like they’ll be out of work for a while.

Government statistics have suggested a rise in employment for graduates in 2014 and onwards, but sadly, only time will tell. Here’s hoping that the future is bright for up and coming graduates, and that bleak unemployment figures aren’t deterring aspiring students from applying to University in the first place.



By Kelly Smith

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