July 07, 2015

Majority of 2015 UK Graduates Feel Prepared for the Workforce, but 60 Percent of Recent Graduates in Work Are Underemployed, Accenture Study Finds

Accenture Strategy 2015 U.K. Graduate Employment Survey reveals large employers need to sharpen their appeal

LONDON; July 7, 2015 – The vast majority (77 percent) of 2015 UK university graduates say that their education has prepared them well for work, according to research from Accenture (NYSE: ACN). But their optimism contrasts with the experience of 2013 and 2014 graduates, 60 percent of whom consider themselves underemployed or working in a job that does not require a degree.

The Accenture Strategy 2015 U.K. University Graduate Employment Survey polled 1,000 students graduating in 2015, and 1,000 who graduated in 2013 and 2014, to compare the perceptions of students preparing to enter the job market with the reality experienced by recent graduates in work. It revealed the potential for a disappointing start to working life for those leaving university.
Approximately three-quarters (72 percent) of this year’s graduates expect to find full-time work, but only 58 percent of 2013 and 2014 grads have been able to do so. Eighty percent of this year’s university leavers say they considered the availability of jobs in their intended field before selecting their degree course. Yet, although 67 percent expect to work in their chosen field, only 55 percent of 2013 and 2014 graduates have been able to do so full time.

In a bid to secure relevant work, 71 percent of this year’s graduates have participated in an internship or apprenticeship during university, compared to just 65 percent of previous year graduates.

Expectations of employer-sponsored learning and development opportunities are high. Eighty four percent of 2015 graduates expect to receive formal training in their first job. Yet only 72 percent of 2013 and 2014 graduates reported that their employer provided such opportunities.

“This year’s graduates are highly resourceful in making themselves relevant to employers,” said Payal Vasudeva, managing director, Accenture Strategy. “They expect good work opportunities and employer provided training, but many remain underemployed and dissatisfied with their work situation. As a result, a large number aim to return to university or college to position themselves for better jobs.”

New graduates place high value on employer culture
Only one fifth of 2015 graduates surveyed say they would prefer to work for a large company. Instead, a third (34 percent) would opt for medium sized enterprises, 11 percent would go for a Government job, and almost a fifth would prefer to work for an entrepreneurial company or start-up, a non-profit organization or to work independently.

Compounding the challenges for Britain’s largest employers, the Accenture Strategy survey found that organizational culture continues to be important. A majority (59 percent) of the 2015 class say that they would prefer to work at a company with a positive social atmosphere and receive a lower salary, than receive higher pay at a company that is less fun. Fifty two percent would accept a lower salary if a company displays a commitment to environmental or social impact.

Aside from salary and benefits, interesting and challenging work was the top factor in choosing an employer (52 percent), followed by opportunities for rapid advancement (32 percent) and innovative work environment (30 percent).

“The UK’s largest companies are in danger of losing bright graduates to smaller, nimbler enterprises if they are unable to provide the right kind of work opportunities or an appealing working environment,” said Vasudeva. “Large companies often have superior social environments and more robust commitments to the environment than smaller enterprises. It is important that they make more of those and shape their culture in ways that will draw young employees and keep them engaged.”

Continued struggle for financial security
Graduate salaries may continue to disappoint, according to the research. Only 16 percent of this year’s graduates say that they expect to earn £19,000 a year or less in their first job, while 25 percent of 2013 and 2014 graduates had an income in that range.

Limited independence is likely to be a consequence of modest salaries as 74 percent expect to graduate with student loan debts. While 31 percent of this year’s graduates expect their parents or family to pay their rent and living expenses, a far higher 54 percent of those who left university in the previous two years had to rely on parents and family to cover such costs

More graduates are prepared to look further afield geographically for the right job than in the past, with 28 percent open to looking abroad, compared to only 19 percent of those who graduated in 2013 and 2014. Forty four percent of 2015 would look in a different city.

“Graduates are willing to invest further to secure better work or make trade-offs to find work with employers with a more conducive culture,” said Vasudeva. “Four in ten 2015 graduates would be willing to take an unpaid internship if a job was not available. Employers who fail to create career development programs and a clear path for advancement are missing a tremendous opportunity to attract and retain top talent.”

In the final assessment, of those who graduated in 2013 and 2014, 69 percent say that the expense of going to university will have been worth it financially in the long run, and 72 percent think going to university will be beneficial to their career.

Employer Recommendations: Five Ways to Attract and Retain Top Entry-Level Talent
Accenture Strategy offers five recommendations for employers to strengthen their entry level talent pipeline:
1. Digitize the talent pipeline. Employers should invest more in digital channels to attract entry-level talent and differentiate the recruitment experience. Seventy four percent of 2015 graduates plan to use or have used a mobile app to search and apply for jobs, versus just 61 percent of 2013 and 2014 graduates.
2. Recast entry-level talent. Six in ten (63 percent) of 2015 graduates expect to stay with their first employer for three years or more. Employers should offer entry-level employees challenging work and a culture of growth and advancement.
3. Bolster broad based development opportunities. Almost two-thirds of 2015 graduates (65 percent) are looking for on-the-job training from their employers and about half (47 percent) expect formal learning experiences. Organizations should invest in learning and development to differentiate themselves as an employer of choice, but also develop skills within the workforce.
4. Invest in the employee experience. Organizational culture is important. The top two concerns for 2015 graduates are fears over work/life balance (39 percent) and being overworked (38 percent). Most graduates would accept less pay to work for a company with a good social atmosphere. Companies must ensure their working culture and environment appeals to the best talent.
5. Engage talent early. Of the 71 percent of 2015 graduates who participated in internships, six in ten (61 percent) say that it led to a job post-graduation. Internships, apprenticeships and co-ops help employers to access high-quality talent and determine if they are a good cultural fit.

Accenture Strategy conducted an online survey in the United Kingdom of 1,000 students graduating from college in 2015 and entering the job market, and 1,000 participants who graduated college in 2013 or 2014. The survey was conducted in May 2015. Learn more at https://www.accenture.com/ukuniversitygradresearch.

About Accenture
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with more than 336,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. The company generated net revenues of US$30.0 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2014. Its home page is www.accenture.com.

Accenture Strategy operates at the intersection of business and technology. We bring together our capabilities in business, technology , operations and function strategy to help our clients envision and execute industry-specific strategies that support enterprise wide transformation. Our focus on issues related to digital disruption, competitiveness, global operating models, talent and leadership help drive both efficiencies and growth. For more information, follow @AccentureStrat or visit www.accenture.com/strategy

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Tim Ferguson
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