From education to employment

Privately educated undergraduates expect 12% higher salaries, shows new study of 14,000 students

With the job market bouncing back across all sectors, Gen Z graduates are making ever increasing salary demands on employers before accepting a job offer, a new study shows.

Research among more than 14,000 undergraduate students entering the job market this summer reveals salary expectations are up by an inflation-topping 8% on 2021.  This year’s graduates are looking for an average starting salary of £27,270 compared with last year’s £25,315.

And privately educated graduates expect to be paid 12% more in their first job than their state-schooled peers (£28,878 vs £25,755) says Bright Network in its annual insight report. 

The What Do Graduates Want 2022? study also shows that even after a three-year spell at university, a significant ‘confidence gap’ still exists between those who went to state schools compared to those who received a fee-paying education.

This confidence gap extends to feelings about job hunting – with only 41% of state educated students thinking they will secure a graduate role versus 60% of their peers who attended a private school.  State school students also say that they feel less prepared for the world of work (46% vs 57% of private school students), a gap that has increased by 8% since last year.  Overall, seven in ten (69%) state educated students think that the recruitment market isn’t inclusive.

What Do Graduates Want 2022? Unleashing the workforce of tomorrow is the seventh annual report that Bright Network has released to ensure that employers understand the needs of tomorrow’s graduates. It will be available as a free download from Thursday 31st March at 9am from here.

Kirsten Barnes, Chief Commercial Officer, Bright Network adds:

“Despite businesses working hard on their equality and inclusion activities, more needs to be done. A quarter (24%) of state-school undergraduates think a lack of a network and contacts will impede their job prospects.  Less than one in five (19%) of privately educated students feel the same way.  It’s something we need to be very aware of and be working tirelessly to address.”

Work experience – often the route into businesses not offering formal graduate programmes – appears easier for privately educated students to find.  Two-thirds (66%) of respondents who had attended private school said they had secured an internship or vacation work.  Just half (50%) of state school students said they had been afforded the same type of opportunities.

A third (33%) of state-educated students also think their background has hindered them in an application.  Interestingly, the class divide pendulum might swing both ways on this.  The study by the graduate careers consultancy also shows that only a quarter (24%) of privately educated graduates felt the same way.

Jonidan Kolgjini, a student at Imperial College London, says that:

“Role models allow applicants from underrepresented backgrounds to feel more comfortable when applying for positions. To see a person from your background in a position you want is a confidence booster.  Pairing employees with candidates from a similar background is a win-win situation as employees get to share their expertise and have a positive impact on the applicant’s experience, and the applicant can communicate freely with the employee without barriers of judgement.”

Flexible working is now also seen as an ‘essential requirement’ for a third (31%) of Gen Z graduates.  A quarter (26%) also want to avoid the Nine to Five grind and choose their own hours.

Yet despite so many wishing to work from home, more than half (53%) of soon-to-be graduates would prefer that home to be in London.  Despite reports warning that the capital would lose its appeal as the benefits of home-working and the disadvantages of commuting became apparent, London is still a highly attractive location for those entering the jobs market.  The next most popular regions – the North West and West Midlands – trail far behind at just 4% each.

James Uffindell, founder & CEO of Bright Network, whose company carried out the research, says:

“This cohort of students are the first in two years who won’t be graduating into the pandemic and after the worst recession in 300 years they are showing a newfound confidence.  By 2030 Gen Z will make up thirty per cent of the working population. And although employers need to recognise that they will need to continue to adapt their working benefits to attract the brightest and the best, new graduates will also need to meet recruiters somewhere in the middle”.

One thing that all students agree on is what they think firms are looking for in an ideal candidate.  The attributes they think are most important to demonstrate are a 2.1 or above in their degree and existing industry experience.  Firms though disagree, saying that it’s passion for the business, resilience and problem-solving skills that are the key to landing a job.

James Turner, CEO of the Sutton Trust, says:

“The gap in confidence between state school and private school students highlighted in today’s report is deeply concerning. Access to work experience, professional networks and support with preparing for the world of work are crucial.

“We know from the Trust’s work – including our Pathways programmes which support lower income students into the professions – that additional support can be invaluable in helping to close this gap. It is vital that all young people, regardless of background, have access to the support and guidance they need to feel confident about their next steps into work and beyond.”

Abbie Streek, Graduate Recruiter at Marsh & McLennan Companies, says:

“There are some interesting trends in the early careers space currently. Homeworking, new technologies and demographic shifts have all changes people’s expectations of the world of work, so it’s vital all businesses acknowledge these if they want to recruit the best talent that’s coming through from our universities”

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