Category Archives: Thinking Out Loud

Moving through history

The development of the Teaching Excellence Framework and the way that it will use measure of graduate employment as a metric to judge institutions makes it all the more important that we get a real grip on how the graduate labour market works.

Graduate migration – see my most recent piece for the latest data – is a phenomenon that has subtle but profound effects on the way we can and should think about graduate employment.

To help understand the migration groups, here is a graphic developed by my excellent colleague Ellen Logan.

migration patterns

Let’s revisit this year’s migration patterns.

leavers etc
Employment groups for UK domiciled graduates from 2013/14

It is now a slightly alarming 11 years since I first conducted an analysis of this kind, so let’s have a look at the data from graduates from 2002/3.

2003 migration patterns
Employment groups for graduates from 2002/3

There are some differences – most notably, Loyals have increased for all regions except London (and, interestingly, Northern Ireland), Incomers are also up in most places, and Stayers are down, quite a bit, in some places (especially Scotland).

But the basic patterns have not moved in over a decade. We may find that, in the future, regions retain slightly fewer people who moved to the area to study, but more people will not move far to study or work but these patterns are what graduates do to find work, and we can assume that this will continue. .

This shows that graduates are not as mobile as a lot of thinking has them and that many can’t or won’t move far or to locations that they do not have a connection with for work. There are practical implications – most graduates who go to work in London, for example, are either originally from the region or studied there. And the same effect is intensified for every labour market outside London.

If you’re a recruiter, this ought to make you think about how you source your talent. If you recruit in Leeds, your new recruits will largely have lived or studied nearby. If you a London-based recruiter with a diversity agenda, even if you see yourself as attracting talent from all over the country, in reality many of those attracted to your offer will have existing ties to the capital, with  implications for your ability to recruit BME graduates and graduates from less affluent backgrounds.

If we are to have metrics based on salary, therefore, we have to understand that they are at least to some degree a measure of where an institution is sited and where they draw their graduates from.

Much has been made of the IFS finding that a group of institutions have graduates who earn under the national average for all workers; anyone familiar with the graduate labour market can probably have a good stab at the identities of those institutions, predominantly universities in less affluent parts of the country, serving labour markets with low wages. We should not allow a situation to develop where institutions with a valuable function in developing local economies feel incentives to send their talented graduates outside those economies to ensure metrics are met.

For institutions, it makes it clear that you will need to be absolutely on point about your local labour markets and to understand where your student cohort comes from. There’s a lot more to understand about how and why graduates move to find work, and what this means for the UK. Is it right to think of the ‘UK graduate labour market’ at all as anything but an abstract, or is it really a series of overlapping markets with their own character and needs? And, crucially, how do we ensure that a framework develops that does not effectively penalise universities for not being near London? We have work to do.





A Tale Of Two Jobs Markets

I’ve been looking at Annual Population Survey data today, looking at how occupational data has changed since the start of the recession.

If you delve into NOMIS, you can look at APS data to September 2013 (this link should take you straight there). I compared employment data by SOC for September 2013, with September 2008, right at the very start of the recession, to take a look at home the jobs market has changed.

employment balance
Change in the number of workers in each occupational subgroup between September 2008 and September 2013. Data source is Annual Population Survey/Labour Force Survey data analysed using NOMIS.

Everything down to, and including, ‘business and public service associate professionals’ is ‘professional level’ – or, paraphrased, are jobs for which a degree is now more-or-less a requirement. Everything below isn’t.

There’s two jobs markets here. The professional jobs market, quite focused on London and its surroundings, but with other areas of strength around the country, and that’s thriving (unless you’re in the Armed Forces). And then there’s everything else except working as a classroom assistant, a carer or something similar. More geographically spread, less well-paid, and those jobs have gone by the tens of thousands. Much of the damage actually happened in the early parts of the recession, and some of it represents long-term occupational decline. In September 2005, the largest of these groups by number in the economy was the ‘administrative occupations’. Now, it’s the ‘elementary administrative & service occupations’. Almost all of these occupational groups are also up on 2012, when employment was especially bad – particularly the skilled metal, electrical and electronic trades.

But it is food for thought. A lot of people in occupations towards the bottom end of the graph will struggle to get work in jobs at the top end. It’s all very well saying we’re creating a load of STEM jobs, but they’re not much use to tens of thousands of former plant, process and machine operatives now out of work and lacking the qualifications to take those opportunities.

Most graduates from most courses at most institutions will get decent jobs, and the areas that they’re looking to work in, by and large, are expanding. It’s not easy to get work for most, but in most cases it’s a lot easier than it would be if they hadn’t gone.

A degree no longer guarantees you a job

It’s time for people to stop saying ‘a degree no longer guarantees you a job’.

This is a kind of zombie factoid that doesn’t have much merit but is nevertheless repeated as parts of public narrative on graduate outcomes, and it needs to stop.

It ties together a number of myths to create a very misleading impression both about current and historic graduate outcomes and about the worth of higher education in general – not bad for just eight words, two of which are ‘a’.

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