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Is the future workforce on hold?

Fifty-seven per cent of UK employers have stated that they are now hiring less graduates than last year.

This comes as recent figures from job search engine Adzuna show that graduate positions have dropped nearly a third across the UK (twice the amount of all job vacancies) – adding further to reports last year of graduate jobs contracting alongside low entry-level pay.

A recent poll by specialist recruitment firm Robert Walters reveals that as a result, over three-fifths of recent grads state that they are now struggling to find relevant professional positions.

Habiba Khatoon, Director of Robert Walters UK commented: “Graduates across the UK are experiencing considerable roadblocks when looking for jobs right now – when economic conditions get tighter, company’s graduate intakes will inevitably reduce or in some cases be put on-hold altogether.

“However – employers overlooking these professionals may be saving on headcount costs now but they will run the risk of talent bottlenecks three to five years on, leading to considerable premiums and competition placed on particular roles.”

By next year, Gen-Z will account for over a quarter (27 per cent) of the global workforce. However, despite this – over half (57 per cent) of UK employers have stated that they are hiring less graduates this year – with 26 per cent stating a ‘little less’ and almost a third (31 per cent) stating ‘a lot less’.

When asked why, almost two-fifths (39 per cent) cited limited hiring budgets; a quarter, having less capacity to train or upskill and 22 per cent shifting hiring focus towards more senior talent.

Khatoon said: “Whilst graduates coming into companies on entry-level positions need more initial training – they possess a range of sought-after skills, such as innovative thinking, adaptability and digital capabilities.

“Failing to establish a robust graduate hiring and retention strategy now can result in significant skills-gaps as well as present further challenges when senior talent opt for an early retirement and there is no one next in line to take their place.”

On the flip side – recent graduates are equally feeling the pinch, when it comes to their job search success – over half (58 per cent) state their job hunt has been extremely difficult – it seems only a minority (10 per cent) are finding it somewhat easy.

When asked how long it took them to find a position, related to their field of study – 18 per cent stated six+ months whilst two-fifths (44 per cent) reported that they still hadn’t found a position at all.

Khatoon said: “With the economy still sluggish, many employers are holding onto their existing workforce – but students are continuing to graduate at the same pace – leading to a consistent funnel of graduates vying over a drought of positions.

“Not only that, but when graduates do secure a position – they will most likely encounter even difficulties trying to live on their earnings – with starting salaries experiencing the lowest rates of growth in three years.”

With the constant stream of grads coming out of university and into the jobs market, employers are ramping up requirements for roles – only recently, StandOutCV found that over half of entry-level roles require prior experience of an average of 2.7 years.

The Robert Walters poll also asked employers what the top quality they look for in a recent graduate. Resoundingly, a willingness to learn (72 per cent) came out on top- prioritised over being a team player (14 per cent), prior work experience (10 per cent) and academic experience (three per cent).

Khatoon continued: “With tighter hiring currently prevalent across the board, employers are confident in asking for more from those they do chose to onboard – but they cannot lose sight of the fact that graduates are the future of our workforce and with each year, they will represent more of the labour market.

“It goes without saying, the tougher market has resulted in a lower volume of graduate positions – but we expect the scales to balance on this, over the following months.”

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