Can Things Only Get Better? The Futuretrack Survey

Following on from the broad brush but optimistic approach of the last couple of posts the Futuretrack survey reported in “Graduate Market Trends” offers some contrasting insights as it studies the development of a group of students who started University in 2006.  In other words, most of them graduated at the time when graduate unemployment was at its highest (8.9%).

Unenployment and Under-Employment

Over 30% of those studied were still in what is classed as non-graduate level employment by the time of the latest survey in February 2012, although with considerable variations according to degree subject.  Looking on the negative side men, those aged 21-25 on applying to University (interestingly) and those from ethnic minority groups were found to be at most risk of unemployment after graduation, whereas (unsurprisingly) graduates achieving First Class Honours were much less likely to be on the dole.

There are also clear suggestions that those students who got involved in extra curricular activities, and especially those who held roles as a student representative or official were more likely to be in ‘graduate level’ jobs by 2012.  The interesting point here is that first generation graduates from poorer backgrounds are far less likely to have found the opportunity to take on this kind of function.  The same group are also more likely to be put off considering postgraduate study, which the survey finds has become less popular following the introduction of tuition fees.

Job Satisfaction

One of the tables in the Stage 4 Futuretrack report provides an insight into the degree-related skills used by graduates in their current job.  This is a subjective measure but suggests that the – by employers – much vaunted skills of spoken communication, teamwork and time management came out bottom, whereas the more academic sounding skills of research and critical evaluation made up the top two.  It would be fascinating to compare this finding with the original adverts for the jobs these graduates were actually doing at the time!

As well as providing some of the highest levels of graduate employment, students of engineering technologies and subjects related to medicine also recorded the highest levels of job satisfaction in their current roles.  bottom of the pile were architecture, building and planning with creative arts and design – so perhaps it’s only two cheers for hopes of creative satisfaction in the longer term.

From Futuretrack Stage 4 Report p. 92


It’s also only two cheers for gender equality as research into the respective earnings of men and women show that they remain strikingly uneven, in that women were much more strongly represented than men in the £15 – £24,000 range. Men were far more likely to be earning more, even though there was no substantial gender difference in the UCAS points held by those surveyed.

Almost 40 years after the introduction of the Sex Discrimination Act, there were only two silver linings for women in the research:

  • In the not-for-profit sector alone, reported salary levels were roughly equal with those earned by men.
  • The minority of women who were earning salaries of £40,000 plus actually recorded higher levels of job satisfaction than their male counterparts.
But the researchers reserved their most forthright comments on the subject for the Law sector: “Compared with the Education sector, female law graduates seeking a professional career should be aware that the profession remains some forty years behind the times with respect to the elimination of gendered career paths.”

Strong words indeed!

But Are Things Getting Better?..

The work of Futuretrack shows some aspects of individual choice (degree subject, extra-curricular activity) that can affect future job prospects but you cannot unfortunately choose the year you graduate.

Since 2009, prospects for graduates have been getting better and more recently Careers Advisers are noticing an increasing number of vacancies, for example coming in to the University of Cumbria Jobshop

Even the public sector is starting to recover, with evidence of increasing numbers of vacancies for newly-qualified teachers and something of a shortage of qualified nurses.