Research out this morning shows a dramatic drop in graduate recruitment, with targets for 2009 cut by
an average of 17 per cent among the UK's top graduate employers (see here). Unsurprisingly it is the financial sector that has seen the biggest contraction in available jobs, with 47 per cent fewer graduate level positions available in the coming year. But almost all sectors have made cuts, most notably in the media, IT services and consulting. High Fliers, the authors of the report, expect a further scaling back of recruitment plans as we go further into 2009.
Two sectors stand out for completely bucking the trend however; the public and armed forces sectors. These are the only two sectors to increase the number of graduate level positions on offer in 2008 and 2009, by 51 per cent in the public sector and 17 per cent in the Armed Forces. In 2008 these taxpayer funded sectors actually offered 3,718 graduate positions, up from the planned 3,420. Between them they are expected to hold at least 26.3 per cent of the 2009 graduate job market.
Despite being at the lower end of graduate starting salaries (a 2009 public sector salary of £25,300 compared to a median £27,000), the report notes that Armed Forces and public sector graduate positions (along with the few remaining banking positions available) have seen the most generous salary increases since last year, with starting rates put up by at least 5 per cent. By comparing 2009 salaries with those in 2007, the public sector is now paying almost a fifth more than it did, and the armed forces almost a sixth. Amid news that local government jobs may be at cut, those concerned should consider these findings closely. Restraint and caution should be the guiding principles of the public sector and armed forces; the evidence suggest that neither is being applied to graduate recruitment.