More university graduates hired by top employers

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More university leavers are being hired by leading graduate employers, according to a report.

New figures show a 1% hike in the number of graduates recruited by businesses this year, with more than 20,600 finding positions.

The data, part of the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) annual survey, also reveals that growth in apprenticeships is far outstripping the rise in graduate-level jobs.

In total, the number of apprentices taken on this year has risen by almost a fifth (19%), to around 11,000.

The 2017 survey is based on responses from around 200 employers who are members of ISE - formerly known as the Association of Graduate Recruiters.

London skyline
The report found many firms believe recruiting a diverse range of graduates is a bigger challenge than Brexit (Chris Radburn/PA)

The findings show that overall, 31,630 graduates and apprentices were hired by these firms this year - made up of 20,614 university leavers and 11,016 apprentices.

"Employers are offering more opportunities for students and a wider variety of opportunities too," a foreword to the report says.

"While the market for graduate hires is stable, the number of apprenticeships is growing fast. A third of graduates are former interns, starting salaries have risen, and entry criteria are more inclusive. Overall, competition for talent is strong."

The report does warn that finding and hiring good graduates is still a challenge for employers.

Firms invest £3,500 per new hire on average to recruit new graduates, it says, but on average one in 10 job offers are turned down, and in 5% of cases, candidates go back on job offers after saying yes.

The findings also show that many firms believe that recruiting a diverse range of graduates - such as recruiting more women and poorer students - is now a bigger challenge than Brexit.

While over half of university students are women, on average 43% of graduates hired by firms are female, along with 44% of interns and a third (33%) of apprentices, the survey found.

In addition, just 24% of employers track the proportion of graduates that they take on who are the first in their family to get a degree.

Three quarters of those polled said that they have taken action to improve graduate diversity, while 40% choose the universities they visit based on the make-up of the student population. One in five (20%) said that they do not use names, or university attended, when selecting new recruits.

"This year, student employers see domestic challenges as bigger issues than Brexit," the report says. While the share of hires from the EU has dipped, improving diversity and making the most of apprenticeships rank as higher priorities for recruiters."

ISE chief executive Stephen Isherwood said: "Employers are offering more opportunities for students and a wider variety too, but competition is strong.

"A significant proportion of offers are turned down despite major efforts to find talent, such as hiring former interns and increasing salaries. Employers are also getting smarter about where they get their candidates from, by making attraction and selection approaches much more inclusive."