IT graduates still find it hardest to get jobs, a new survey shows

IT graduates still find it hardest to get jobs, a new survey shows

Unemployment for 2009 graduates with computing degrees hits 16.3 percent

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IT graduates are most likely to struggle with finding a job, a new report has shown.

The unemployment rate for IT graduates had increased from 13.7 percent to 16.3 percent in 2009, according to the ‘What Do Graduates Do?’ report from the Higher Education Careers Services Unit (HECSU).

The figures refer to students who graduated in 2009 and were known to be without work six months later in January 2010. There were around 11,165 IT graduates in 2009 and 8,995 responded to the survey.

The rate of unemployment among IT graduates was higher than the overall rate of graduate unemployment, which had increased one percent to 8.9 percent for the 21,020 students surveyed.

The report backs the findings from the Higher Education Statistics Agency earlier this year, which also said that computer science graduates were the most unlikely to find work, after it found that 17 percent of full-time first degree computer science graduates last year were unable to find work. This was above the national average of 10 percent.

HECSU said in its report that IT and computing graduates had been affected by drastic cuts in graduate recruitment in the IT and telecommunications sector during the downturn. It also expects these sectors to lose even more graduate opportunities this year (down 31.4 percent) due to the impact of the global recession. This is despite top graduate recruiters like BT returning to the milk round circuit this year, looking for 133 recruits for its 2011 graduate scheme.

Meanwhile, the number of people with computing degrees had continued to decline, by a further seven percent in 2009, which the HECSU said was an ongoing trend.

“We do expect fewer people taking IT qualifications,” said Charlie Ball, deputy research director at HECSU.

However, HECSU found that more IT and computing students were going on to further study, with the proportion studying for a higher degree rising by 1.5 percent to 7.5 percent, which Ball said was the typical trend during a recession. In addition, 2.5 percent of graduates were undertaking further training in the UK in qualifications such as Microsoft Certificate and Chartered Institute of Management Accountants Qualifications.

For the 5,650 graduates who were able to find jobs, HECSU found that 38.9 percent became IT professionals, with majority become software designers and engineers (10.7 percent), closely followed by computer analysts and programmers (6.4 percent) or web developers (5.4 percent). 

Other industries that graduates entered included retail, catering, waiting and bar staff, which was second most popular after IT professionals, at 13.7 percent, and commercial, industrial and public sector managers (9.2 percent).

In terms of pay, the starting salaries for IT graduates fell slightly between 2008 and 2009, although HECSU said that the pay was still higher than the average salary for graduates across all degree subjects (£19,695). The average salaries for IT graduates included £20,388 for computer science degrees, £20,651 for software engineering and £21,179 for artificial intelligence.  

HECSU and sector skills body e-skills UK both recommended that students adopt training in “soft skills” as well as technical ones, to improve their chances of getting a job.

“Students looking to get into an IT career should consider applying for a degree course that offers to teach the rich blend of technical, business, management and interpersonal skills demanded by employees,” said Karen Price, CEO of e-skills UK.

“For students to maximise their chances of securing a job after they graduate, they should also consider undertaking a placement year as part of their degree course,” she added.

In September, BT announced its return to the university milk round circuit, looking for 133 recruits for its 2011 graduate scheme. It was also the first time that BT’s Global Services division will be recruiting 30 graduates across Europe, the Middle East, United States and Asia Pacific.

Industry experts have warned that young people looking for a career in the IT industry may have to start looking at other ways to get in. Apprenticeships were recommended as a possible route in light of the Browne review, which said that funding for computing courses at university may be cut.

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