Nearly 40% of today’s graduates are looking for work six months after leaving university and a quarter are still job-hunting a year on, according to a recent survey by Totaljobs.co.uk.
My son, Joseph, is one of these statistics, having graduated in English literature last summer, and he’s beginning to wonder whether he should have bothered studying for his degree.
At first, he applied for entrance-level admin jobs, as he’s got experience in this area but found he wasn’t getting anywhere – despite applying for non-graduate jobs. On average, he’s applied for 20 jobs a week – trawling the internet until he could find nothing left to try.
When he does have job interviews, it costs him £7.40 return to take the tube into central London – and in most cases, the companies haven’t bothered to get back to him to tell him he’s been unsuccessful.
More recently, he’s joined a teaching agency and has managed to get some work as a supply teaching assistant in primary schools – but no more than a couple of days a week.
He has to phone up the agency at 7am each morning on the off-chance that it will have supply work for him – only to find that most days he has no work.
In between jobs, he has signed on for the £57.35 a week Jobseeker’s Allowance he’s entitled to – but if you’re not careful, that can be stopped at a whim if you find yourself falling out with your Jobcentre adviser.
One week, he had trouble accessing the online system where you log any jobs you’ve applied for. As he didn’t upload any jobs, his adviser issued him with a four-week 'sanction' and he received no money at all for a month.
Often, he has had to go to the Jobcentre twice a week – once to sign on and then to have review meetings about what he was doing to find work – eating into the time he could be looking for work.
Last time he claimed, he did a day’s work at a school, earning £60. You are allowed to work up to 14 hours a week while claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance but the Jobcentre now says he owes them a week’s worth and must repay it before he can claim again.
Joseph says most of his friends are in a similar position – for instance, one does a bit of modelling, another is trying to set himself up as a personal trainer but only has a couple of clients and a third is working in a pub several years after graduating.
For anyone planning to send their children off to university, I would think twice unless you can persuade them to do a vocational course. And even then, they might be better off trying to find work at 18. They’ll have a three-year head start over their graduate rivals – and they won’t have to pay back tens of thousands of pounds in student loans.