Graduate vacancies set to jump a fifth on last year, research finds

Report reveals opportunities for university leavers are expected to increase further in 2022, with most sectors seeing a return to pre-Covid hiring rates

The number of graduate job vacancies is expected to increase by more than a fifth on last year’s levels, a poll of employers has found.

The study, conducted by the Institute of Student Employers (ISE), found that the number of vacancies for graduate roles is set to increase by 22 per cent in 2022 compared to 2021, while roles for college and school leavers are set to increase by 17 per cent.

However, the research, which collated data from 177 of the UK’s largest graduate employers, also found that nearly half (48 per cent) reported seeing fewer applicants from graduates, while two thirds (63 per cent) said they were seeing fewer applicants from school and college leavers.

Jon Boys, labour market economist at the CIPD, said the figures reflected wider trends in the labour market, and was positive news for those looking for a role after graduation.

“Record numbers of young people entered university during the pandemic to avoid the economic hit. Some of those who were students during the pandemic will be joining the labour market now, but many three-year degrees will still be working their way through the system,” he said.

“At the same time, many employers who put off recruitment during the pandemic are now seeking candidates at the same time.

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“With vacancies up and candidates down, this year could be a good one for the current cohort of grads, who may be more likely to land a job that better matches their qualifications,” Boys said.

The report also found that all sectors had returned to pre-pandemic levels of graduate recruitment, with the exception of retail and FMCG, where graduate hiring levels were 3 per cent lower than before Covid.

However, the poll also found that for some, the quality of applicants had fallen. Nearly a fifth (18 per cent) of respondents said the quality of graduate applications was lower than the previous year, while 90 per cent said the same about school and college leavers.

Stephen Isherwood, chief executive of the ISE, said the figures “demonstrate business confidence” and should be welcome news for those looking for a job.  

“The hike in vacancies means a return to a student-driven market. However, with a significant number of employers noting a drop in the quality of applicants, students should be aware of resting on their laurels.”

The findings come after the ISE’s Student Recruitment Report found that competition for graduate jobs reached a record high in 2021, with the average employer receiving 91 applications for each graduate role they advertised.

School and college leaver applications averaged 61 per job vacancy, while the average employer received 82 applications for each work placement vacancy in 2021.

Isherwood added that the jobs market was still competitive for graduates: “While students should feel confident about their prospects, they need to apply themselves rigorously to their job search and make every application count.”

Boys called on employers to carefully consider their current entry requirements and to open up applications to a wider talent pool than university graduates.

“To attract and retain staff, employers should look at offering a range of benefits and their employment offer as a whole, including training, development and progression opportunities and ensuring flexible working options are widely available,” he said.