Page last updated at 02:06 GMT, Tuesday, 8 July 2008 03:06 UK

Graduate literacy 'worries firms'

Pen and paper
Employers are concerned by graduates' lack of writing skills

Poor reading and writing skills among graduates are a concern for half of the UK's top employers, a survey suggests.

The Association of Graduate Recruiters found 56% of the 200 firms surveyed had concerns about a lack of "hard skills" like literacy and leadership.

The survey found employers were also less likely to trust degree grades as "gold standards" for recruitment.

It also found starting salaries were not keeping up with inflation but that there were more graduate vacancies.

This annual survey reflects the type of labour market facing graduates - and this year shows a mixed picture of continued growth tinged with a growing uncertainty over earnings.

Pay worries

There have been several years of expansion in opportunities for graduates - with a growing demand for high-skilled employers.

This buoyancy has continued despite worries about the economy with another annual growth of 11.7% in jobs for graduates. A third of all graduate vacancies are now in banking and finance.

But starting salaries are not matching inflation - up 1.8%, with an average of 24,500. Law firms are the highest payers for graduates, with starting salaries of 36,500.

There is also evidence of increasing competition for the more sought-after jobs - with an average of 30 applicants for each graduate job.

This year's survey shows worries about skills shortages among graduates. As well as doubts about their literacy, 55% of employers have concerns about graduates' "soft skills" such as the ability to communicate and solve problems.

The survey also notes that a "significant proportion of employers are also worried about low levels of knowledge in mathematics and IT/technology" among graduates.

A lack of certainty over what degree grades represent is also reflected in this year's survey. Employers are much less likely to use an upper second class degree - a 2:1 - as a "gold standard" for deciding which students to recruit.

Carl Gilleard, the association's chief executive, says that the survey provides evidence of what is happening to recruitment against the current concerns about the credit crunch and economic uncertainty.

It shows that major employers are still investing in graduate recruitment schemes and that the jobs market is still expanding - but it also shows tougher times on pay.

"Although employers are still hiring, this year's survey shows the smallest rise in graduate salaries in recent years and in most cases employers will offer no more than a cost of living rise next year," said Mr Gilleard.

Graduate vacancies up, says study
31 Jan 08 |  Education
Graduate jobs rise, but pay down
09 Jul 07 |  Education
Many graduates 'lack soft skills'
30 Jan 07 |  Education

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