Graduates travelling across the UK for job interviews will be able to apply for free accommodation in London, Manchester and Birmingham, under a new scheme from a high street bank designed to highlight the difficulties faced by young jobseekers.
The month-long ‘Barclays Graduate Rooms’ scheme will allow graduates to apply on a first-come, first-served basis for two nights of free accommodation in studio apartments close to their interview locations, regardless of whether their interview is with Barclays or another organisation.
“We hope that by offering free accommodation in some of the most popular cities for graduate jobs, we’ll go some way to helping those who would otherwise struggle,” said Sue Hayes, managing director of personal banking at Barclays.
According to a poll of 2,000 graduates carried out by the bank, four in 10 students have turned down interviews because of the cost of travel and accommodation, while 50 per cent have avoided applying for jobs in certain locations altogether because of their limited budgets.
The average student spends £507 getting their first job after university, shelling out an average of £52 on travel and accommodation and £58 on appropriate clothing per interview, the bank said. A quarter (25 per cent) said they went to five or more interviews before being hired.
“It’s shocking to see the true cost of landing that first job out of university,” Hayes added. “Graduates already face a challenging job market on top of record levels of student debt, so it’s disheartening to see how many of them are struggling to cover the costs of even attending an interview.”
While the offer of accommodation is a publicity coup for Barclays, it highlights an increasingly important issue that is indivisibly linked to the slow progress being made on social mobility in the UK.
According to the bank’s poll, many graduates are forced to supplement their limited budgets by seeking support from family and friends (42 per cent) to fund the cost of interviews, or using overdrafts or credit cards (32 per cent) to cover their costs.
Separate research from consultancy giant PwC revealed that young borrowers aged 25-34 are burdened with five times the unsecured debts of their older counterparts. The average debt of an unsecured borrower aged between 25 and 35 comes in at more than £11,000, the research found.
The findings come at a time when all workers are seeing their wages become increasingly stretched. In June, Torsten Bell, director at think tank the Resolution Foundation, warned that real wages were on course to hit their lowest point in two centuries, thanks to a combination of rising inflation and the rocky political landscape.
And in August, the CIPD said pay growth expectations had sunk to a three-and-a-half-year low, with employers anticipating wages would grow just 1 per cent over the next 12 months.