Almost two thirds of recent grads underemployed in work

Accenture Strategy 2015 UK Graduate Employment Survey reveals large employers need to sharpen their appeal

The vast majority (77%) of 2015 UK university graduates say that their education has prepared them well for work, according to research from Accenture.

But their optimism contrasts with the experience of 2013 and 2014 graduates, 60% of whom consider themselves underemployed or working in a job that does not require a degree.

The Accenture Strategy 2015 U.K. University Graduate Employment Survey polled 1,000 students graduating in 2015, and 1,000 who graduated in 2013 and 2014, to compare the perceptions of students preparing to enter the job market with the reality experienced by recent graduates in work.  It revealed the potential for a disappointing start to working life for those leaving university.             

Approximately three-quarters (72%) of this year’s graduates expect to find full-time work, but only 58% of 2013 and 2014 grads have been able to do so.  Eighty percent of this year’s university leavers say they considered the availability of jobs in their intended field before selecting their degree course.  Yet, although 67% expect to work in their chosen field, only 55% of 2013 and 2014 graduates have been able to do so full time.

In a bid to secure relevant work, 71% of this year’s graduates have participated in an internship or apprenticeship during university, compared to just 65% of previous year graduates.

“This year’s graduates are highly resourceful in making themselves relevant to employers,” commented Payal Vasudeva, managing director, Accenture Strategy. “They expect good work opportunities and employer provided training, but many remain underemployed and dissatisfied with their work situation. As a result, a large number aim to return to university or college to position themselves for better jobs.”

Compounding the challenges for Britain’s largest employers, the Accenture Strategy survey found that organisational culture continues to be important. A majority (59%) of the 2015 class say that they would prefer to work at a company with a positive social atmosphere and receive a lower salary, than receive higher pay at a company that is less fun. Fifty two percent would accept a lower salary if a company displays a commitment to environmental or social impact.

Continued struggle for financial security

Graduate salaries may continue to disappoint, according to the research. Only 16% of this year’s graduates say that they expect to earn £19,000 a year or less in their first job, while 25% of 2013 and 2014 graduates had an income in that range.

Limited independence is likely to be a consequence of modest salaries as 74% expect to graduate with student loan debts.  While 31% of this year’s graduates expect their parents or family to pay their rent and living expenses, a far higher 54% of those who left university in the previous two years had to rely on parents and family to cover such costs

More graduates are prepared to look further afield geographically for the right job than in the past, with 28% open to looking abroad, compared to only 19% of those who graduated in 2013 and 2014. Forty four percent would look in a different city.