The new Graduate Outcomes survey is out. Charlie Ball, graduate labour market lead at Prospects, Jisc, explains how the data can be used to recruit graduates.
Recent data and commentary from industry sources is clear. Candidate shortages are a key feature of today’s UK labour market.
For businesses across the economy finding new workers with the required skills and keeping hold of those they already have, is a significant challenge.
Good quality intelligence about skills supply and demand, where to find good quality candidates, how to attract and retain them, are at a premium for businesses.
Every year, the UK’s Higher Education Statistics Agency, HESA, commissions a large survey of all UK university leavers. This national survey, running for over 50 years has gone by many names. Today it is known as the Graduate Outcomes survey.
Graduate Outcomes is used by Government and regulators to examine university and course performance. Much of the reporting and perception of the data is coloured by that.
However, from the perspective of the recruiter it can be an extraordinarily rich source of insight. Graduate Outcomes data contains information about the jobs new graduates do and the industries in which they undertake them.
Plus, the size of industry they work for, where they are working and even more qualitative data, such as how they found that job and why they chose it.
For example, the difference between being a coder at a computing consultancy and a coder at an SME in the finance industry is easy to examine with this type of data.
In addition, it is designed to be linked to the registration data that universities collect at the start of every year. So it’s possible to trace back to the characteristics of graduates, from their age to the course they chose and even their original domicile.
This gives us a powerful, subtle tool for examining skills and qualification supply.
Say for example you want to look at the labour market for newly qualified computing graduates in Manchester? Graduate Outcomes data allows you to look at all university qualifiers from the target year (at all levels, not just first degrees) and examine every computing graduate who got a job in Manchester, the industry they work in, what they studied and where, their personal characteristics and so on.
This is obviously of tremendous use to businesses looking to recruit, particularly when it comes to vacancies that are difficult to fill.
The most recent survey data is of particular interest. It looks at the cohort of graduates who left university in summer 2020, during the COVID pandemic. Conducted 15 months after graduation in late 2021, this was after many restrictions were lifted in the UK.
Main findings point to some of the reasons that we’re now experiencing occupational shortages. The data is significantly more positive than many had anticipated.
- 89% of graduates who responded to the 2019/20 survey were in some form of work or further study (up from 88% in the survey of 2018/19 graduates)
- 6% of graduates were unemployed
- 5% were doing another activity such as travelling, caring for someone, or retired
- 76% of those in work were in high skilled occupations
- Among full-time first-degree graduates, the percentage in full-time employment increased from 52% in last year’s survey to 54%
- The percentage who were unemployed dropped from 9% to 6%
- The median salary of full-time first-degree graduates in full-time UK employment 15 months after finishing higher education was £25,000. This was the same for both male and female graduates
- Among graduates in highly skilled occupations, the median salary was £27,000 for male graduates and £25,000 for female graduates
- 86% of survey respondents agreed that their current activity was meaningful
- 77% said that it fit with their future plans
- 71% agreed that they were using what they had learned during their studies.
The survey also tells us some interesting things about the way graduates navigated the pandemic.
Outcomes were broadly better than for the previous cohort, who had graduated pre-pandemic but were surveyed during it.
This suggests that for this graduating cohort, at a broad level the pandemic does not seem to have presented a major career setback in the short term.
Looking deeper there are some interesting features.
- The proportion of graduates who started work in SMEs, usually at around 30%, was 24% for this cohort. Clearly demonstrating the difficulty the SME sector experienced during COVID but also pointing to a longer term issue the sector may have accessing graduate skills.
- In a similar vein, there seems to have been a drop in entrepreneurship and self-employment that mirrors some of the fall in wider self-employment in the UK.
Overall, this represents high quality intelligence on the supply of skills and qualifications into the labour market and employers looking to recruit graduates, from HND up to PhD.
Ultimately, this dataset makes it possible to help and improve your planning and recruitment in the future.