Graduate Recruitment in 2017: Trends and Analysis

With the public sector once again fully immersed in the graduate recruitment cycle, it is interesting to see current trends in the graduate recruitment landscape, both in terms of what graduates are expecting and what employers are seeking.

Every year, gradireland compile the Graduate Salary & Graduate Recruitment Trends Survey, which provides a panoramic view of what the trends are in this constantly evolving area.

Over 120 leading graduate recruiters and SME’s were surveyed in the collection of this year’s data. So what are the key trends emerging?

Graduate salaries continue to rise

The curve continues upwards when it comes to graduate salaries, albeit with only a modest increase this year. In 2017 the average salary paid to a starting graduate recruit will be €28,554. This is an increase of almost €4,000 over the last four years.

This is an increase of almost €4,000 over the last four years. For example, in 2013, the first official ‘post-recession’ year the average salary for graduates was between €24,000 and €25,000.

This year, while the average is €28.5k, the reality is that many graduates are being paid a lot
more than that. 35% will be paid between €30,000 and €34,000. At the other end of the scale, only 15% will be paid less than €25,000. In terms of salary expectations, almost 40% of employers surveyed believe that graduates have unrealistic expectations when it comes to pay and conditions.

This is up significantly from what it was between 2010 and 2015 and indicates both a stronger
jobs market and the resultant increase in salary and other expectations from graduates. In terms of what sectors are paying the most, the public sector is one of the highest average payers of graduate salaries, at €29,569. The highest paying salaries in this year are law, at €30,797 and Retail (due to graduate management programmes from retailers like Lidl and Aldi) at €30,998.

How many graduates are being hired?

The average number of graduates being hired, when measured across all companies surveyed, is 40. Only 4% of those surveyed said that they would not be recruiting any graduates in the 2017 recruitment cycle.

In line with the increasing amount of graduates being hired, there is also heightened business confidence amongst employers with 49% saying that they were hiring more graduates due to an actual increase in business, while 37% said that it was because of a heightened strategic focus on graduate recruitment. In terms of the challenges which HR departments face when recruiting graduate talent, over 31%, the highest percentage, said that most competition would come from other employers in their sector, while 25% said that offers from other sectors would provide the greatest challenge to attracting graduates.

The value of internships

Internships and work experience are now firmly embedded on the graduate recruitment landscape for employers in all sectors, and of all sizes. Generally speaking, internships are now viewed by HR Departments as vital when it comes to developing their future talent pipelines.

Internships programmes are popular amongst graduate employers, with 76% saying that they offered work experience or internships. 60% of employers said that they were happy with the number of internship/work placement opportunities that they were currently offering, with 34.7% saying they planned to increase the number they offered and just 5% saying they planned to reduce what they were offering.

Internships and pay

Like previous years, the momentum behind creating properly rewarded internships programmes continues for the overwhelming majority of graduate recruiters, across all sectors, and is well established in the public sector. 93% of the companies surveyed paid students while on work placement or an internship.

The rates of pay also demonstrate the importance which employers place on internships, with almost 39% paying between €1,600– €1,799 per month, while just over 19% paid between €1,400 and €1,599.

Over 19% paid their interns between €1,800 and €2,000 per month with 9% of employers willing to pay their interns in excess of this figure. The number of low-paid interns continues to fall dramatically, with just under 2% of interns being paid less than €1,000 per month, down from 11% last year.

Working skills: Graduates and soft skills

These are the everyday people based skills that enable people to work, communicate and deliver effectively. While the desired soft skills can be the same across a variety of sectors,
they are areas in which employers often feel graduates are lacking. Like last year, communication remains the number one soft skill that employers feel is lacking in their graduate recruits.

At a little over 42% it is down from last year’s 54%. Second, as last year, 33% of employers said that poor management when it comes to learning was a key soft skill which was lacking. Not being able to deliver effectively when working independently was highlighted by 31% of employers, up from just over 21% last year, while just over a quarter of employers felt that problem solving, motivation and flexibility were issues that graduates needed to work on developing.

In terms of addressing these skills deficits, employers felt that completing an internship
or gaining work experience was the most effective, at 77%, up from last year’s 71%.

Gaining international experience was the next most popular method, cited by 41% of
graduate employers.

Other most effective methods included taking part in team-based exercises at university,
showing leadership or taking part in team sports. This reinforces the message from careers services that students should engage widely during their time at college in order to effectively build their skills.

Hard skills

Poor administration and organisation is the number one hard skill lacking in today’s graduates, said 35% of employers surveyed, up from 23% in last year’s data. Project management was also identified as being lacking, with 33% believing it is lacking (up from
23% last year).

Poor writing skills were identified as an area for improvement by 29% of employers surveyed while fluency in a foreign language was deemed vital by 26% of employers. Other hard skill shortages were identified in areas such as leadership, computer skills and numeracy skills.

International comparisons

As an overall barometer of where employers believe Irish graduates stand in comparison
to their international counterparts, 56% believe there is no discernible difference in quality between graduates from Ireland and those from other countries. 34% believe they are generally of a higher calibre, while only 10% felt Irish graduates compared unfavourably which is good news for Ireland’s third level students.

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