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Graduate job vacancies 20% higher than pre-pandemic, reports Institute of Student Employers

The graduate jobs market has recovered with the number of vacancies now 20% higher than in 2019 before the Covid-19 pandemic, reports Institute of Student Employers (ISE). 

Companies responding to ISE’s Vacancy Survey 2022 represent the UK’s largest graduate employers. They reported that job vacancies for graduates will increase by more than a fifth (22%) in 2022 compared to 2021.  

Sectors with the biggest jobs growth this year are the built environment (48% growth), energy, engineering and industry (41% growth), and health and pharmaceuticals (37% growth).  

The charity and public sector is the only industry to reduce the number of graduate jobs in 2022. However, even with the 11% reduction in vacancies this year, the sector is above pre-pandemic levels. 

ISE’s Vacancy Survey shows the pandemic’s impact on the graduate labour market. For example, compared to 2019, graduate vacancies have risen by 67% in the built environment, 42% in digital and IT, and 24% in health and pharmaceuticals. 

All sectors have returned to pre-pandemic levels of hiring with the exception of jobs in retail and FMCG. While this sector is currently recruiting 3% fewer graduates than in 2019, it has increased vacancies by 20% from 2021 to 2022.  

Meanwhile, school leaver jobs in retail and FMCG have increased by 55% since last year. 

Overall school and college leaver vacancies did not dip during the pandemic and have grown by 17% compared to 2021. As well as retail and FMCG experiencing strong growth, finance and professional services has grown by 37%, and the built environment sector by 30%.

There is evidence that recruitment has returned to a student-driven market. While competition for graduate jobs reached a record high in 2021, nearly half (48%) of graduate employers reported that they had received fewer applicants than this time last year. This is due to more graduate vacancies and difficulties engaging students with online careers events now they have returned to campus.

Nearly one in five employers (18%) noted that the quality of graduate applicants had dropped.  They stress that to be successful, students need to focus on career planning and application readiness. 

Stephen Isherwood, chief executive of ISE, said: “The number of graduate jobs has slowly increased but this is the first time we’ve seen hiring back to pre-pandemic levels. It demonstrates business confidence and how much employers continue to value a degree. 

“This is great news for those job hunting. 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 graduate labour market is and always has been competitive. While students should feel confident about their prospects, they need to apply themselves rigorously to their job search and make every application count.” 

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