Election fact check blog #2: graduate employment
For this years student officer elections LSMedia News will be running a fact check blog, to help you make your mind up before you go to the polls. If you want a particular area fact checked then get in touch! This is your election and we are here to hold candidates accountable to you.
The adage that “a degree is not enough” to secure employment after university has been repeated so often that it is hardly surprising candidates refer to employability in their manifestos.
In today’s fact check we ask: is graduate employment really in crisis and what, if anything, could the Guild do about it?
The graduate without a future?
The good news is graduates still have much better employment prospects than those without a degree. Despite hyperbolic rhetoric of a “lost generation” and “winter of discontent” most graduates still find work of some sort after graduating.
Nationally 89.9% of graduates go into work or future study, with University of Liverpool specifically slightly above average at 92.3%. The average wage per hour for those with degrees is £15.18, 70% higher than for those without.
The number of recent graduates who are unemployed has risen during the recession, although things are not as bad as during the 1990s.
We should add here that this data is incredibly broad and masks significant complexity. For example: the results of the National Student Survey show huge differences in employment outcomes between courses at any single institution.
One of the issues the figures mask is that many recent graduates are “under-employed.” Over a third (36%) are employed in “low skill” work, up from 25% a decade ago.
Depending on who you ask this is because there are more graduates than ever before (nearly half of all young people go into some kind of higher education), or because of the prevailing economic climate.
What can LGoS do?
With that in mind, voters should be wary of promises to improve ‘employability.’ It’s also worth noting the University itself does run a Careers and Employability Service with many full time staff, which can claim several industry awards to its name.
LGoS does work with the Careers and Employability Service on running events, but perhaps the union’s largest contribution to employability is societies and volunteering coordination. Both offer some of the best opportunities students have to fill up their CVs.
The simplest way to improve employability is therefore to promise improved society provision and engagement, although this could be problematic. For more on why see our next fact check on Guild finances.
This year the Guild has also been pushing volunteering, with events like “the really big student volunteering day” last month.
LGoS, as part of the National Union of Students, is also engaged with the Trades Union Congress in campaigning for greater investment and less austerity in national economic policy. Depending on your politics this would either improve or damage graduate employment prospects long term. The coalition is openly hostile to these efforts, but if the Labour party were to win the next election then that situation might change.
LGoS could also lobby the university to focus courses more on ‘vocational’ skills, although this will run up against deep division in the University about what education is actually for and to what extent courses should be training students for work.
All manifestos are available here.