Graduate Employment Here & Now

Mark Sandford - August 2011
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At present, approximately 1 out of every 5 graduates coming out of university will fail to find a job and experience unemployment. This is not just down to a very anaemic labour market but also down to the fact that employers have the luxury to choose. Consequently anyone coming onto the labour market without the right mix of vocational skills and relevant experience will struggle.

With the recent rise in tuition fees, graduates are now leaving university with record levels of debt but are going into a hostile labour market. Employers also want staff with experience of this, that and the other which mitigates against somebody attempting to find their first job. Whilst the private sector is still creating jobs, this is offset by looming redundancies in the public sector caused by government spending cuts.

It is not just graduates that are currently struggling to attain employment. According to the latest ONS summary over 829000 people have been unemployed for 12 months and more. These are the group that the government really needs to provide constructive assistance for, without the usual sanctimonious platitudes. Anyone out of work for that length of time will need to re-skill just to have a chance of getting a job interview. Although age discrimination is now banned in the workplace, it still exists overtly and one only has to examine who is at greatest risk of redundancy. It is more likely to be a person at the upper income and experience band who is older than a graduate coming into work for the first time.

Recent examples confirm this argument. Bombardier based in Derby has announced 1400 job losses at its train manufacturing plant after losing a contract for rolling stock to its German competitor Siemens. No doubt there will be a knock on effect in the supply chain to that plant and 200 jobs could potentially be affected there.

The government simply has to realise that for every job opportunity going, 50 or more people will be competing for the same role. It is no good expecting a person to accept a lower paid job if that individual has a mortgage to pay and a young family to support. Job snobbery has got nothing to do with it. And those staff who are made redundant from the public sector will have another culture shock coming to them. Many private sector employers have stated quite publicly that they are not prepared to consider hiring anyone from the public sector. We are going back to the good old days of prejudice which the recent Equality Act was designed to eradicate.

It must be said that we only have 7.7% of the workforce unemployed compared to other countries such as Greece or Spain. The UK is certainly in a better place than the heady days of the early 1990s. But we still have much work to do and this should be recognised by politicians of all parties. Unemployment can be an intractable issue particularly given poor growth rates of GDP and an uncertain economic outlook with the Eurozone debt saga. Therefore it does require focused effort to spur more job creation and ensure that the long term unemployed are competing in a level playing field.

Mark Sandford - Permission granted to freely distribute this article for non-commercial purposes if attributed to Mark Sandford, unedited and copied in full, including this notice.

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