By Joanne Babbage
Employment producer, BBC News
Rhianne Pope has been claiming Jobseekers Allowance since January
Experts are predicting doom and gloom for those graduating in the summer of 2009.
Nearly half of all firms will not be looking to hire graduates or school-leavers in the months ahead, a report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development suggests.
The government is even urging graduates to consider working abroad to avoid the worst of the recession.
This advice was, maybe surprisingly, backed by the National Union of Students and handed out recently on leaflets at universities across the UK.
So who would want to be graduating in the class of 2009?
Well, a band of educated youngsters have already been facing these work hardships for the past 11 months.
They graduated in 2008 and found themselves in the jobs market at the start of the recession.
36,000 unemployed graduates
Official figures from the Office for National Statistics, specially analysed for the BBC, show that 36,000 students who graduated in 2008 were still unemployed in the first quarter of 2009.
That figure makes up just over 12% of all those who graduated in 2008.
Add to that all those in temporary, part-time and other 'non-graduate' jobs and you've already got tens of thousands of educated youngsters chasing a shrinking graduate jobs market.
That compares to an unemployment rate for all young people between 18 and 24 of 16.1% in the three months to the end of March, a sharp increase from 12.6% just one year ago.
Experts indeed predict there will be a 5% drop in jobs for new graduates this summer. BBC News spoke to some of these 2008 graduates and asked them how helpful they think the advice being offered to 2009 graduates is.
Extra study, extra debt
Graduates should consider further study after graduating, according to the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills.
Rhianne Pope from Chorley has just been accepted on a journalism masters degree at the University of Central Lancashire in Preston. She graduated with a 2.1 in History from York University in 2008.
After failing to secure a graduate level job she moved back in with her parents and signed on to Jobseekers Allowance.
Although happy to have some idea of how to improve her career prospects, Rhianne faces another dilemma for graduates: should they take on more debt?
"I'm going to continue on Jobseekers Allowance for another month and continue my job search and then decided if I'll go on the course," she says.
"I've got to really think hard about it because I desperately don't want to get into any more debt," she says.
Miss Pope also has something to say to those in the government who think graduates should go abroad to escape the current dire jobs market.
"I know people who graduated in 2008 who are in Australia right now and they are having a really hard time finding any kind of work." she says.
'Lower your sights'
So, what about the advice given by Carl Gilleard, the chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters?
He is on record saying they should lower their sights and that "almost any work is better than not working at all".
Ian Craig is working as a bank cashier
Ian Craig, a journalism graduate from Cardiff University, has accepted a job where a degree is not a requirement.
However, he is worried that his job as a bank cashier is ruining his career prospects.
"I got the job through a temping agency after I'd applied for hundreds of graduate schemes and got absolutely nowhere. This was only meant to be a stop-gap but eleven months later I'm still here," he says.
The role is full time so it means Ian cannot do any unpaid work experience in his chosen field.
Journalism is an industry notorious for giving people work experience on the job for little or no cash.
"I feel like I'm in a Catch-22 situation. I can't afford to give up this job but if I don't give up the job I won't be able to get any journalism experience," he adds.
"It's all well and good telling graduates to take any work but what happens when it gets in the way of pursuing the career you actually studied for?"
Some graduates might argue that Ian is one of the lucky ones.
At least he is earning some money and gaining valuable work experience, even if it is not in his chosen career.
Hayley Thomas thinks employers are discriminating against graduates
Hayley Thomas from Port Talbot has just decided to stop claiming Jobseekers Allowance despite still being jobless.
She is fed up of feeling like just another unemployment statistic by a system she says is not designed to cater for graduates.
"By quitting Jobseekers Allowance I don't mean to say that I'm too good for it nor do I think I'm better than everyone else. But I wasn't getting any help.
"Neither my degree nor my work experience were ever taken into account, I wasn't offered any back-to-work schemes, training placements or courses. I was there so they could tick boxes and send me on my way," she claims.
Hayley has applied for jobs in bars, shops and call centres but managed to secure only two interviews in the 11 months she's been out of university.
She argues that employers are not considering graduates on purpose and has set up a Facebook group, called Against Graduate Discrimination, to help others in the same boat.
"The time has come for UK graduates to speak up, share their experiences and hope for change," says the group blurb.
"Time to stop turning up to interviews with employer's minds already made up. To stop those raised eyebrows when you're asked where do you want to be in 5 years time."
"We shouldn't have to omit our education from our CV or be too wary to use the odd academic reference," it continues.
"We've worked hard and shouldn't be at the bottom of the pile of candidates because of prejudice."
The class of 2010
But Elspeth Farrar, Vice President of the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services, thinks things are only going to get worse before they get better.
Tara Nicholls worries she will be competing with her sister for jobs
"It's been bad for those who graduated in 2008, it's going to be awful for those who graduate this year but it's nothing compared to what the graduates of 2010 are going to face," she says.
It is a situation Tara Nicholls from Wisbech in Cambridge knows all too well.
She graduated with a BA in Graphic Design last year.
Her sister has just completed an MA in Media Production.
She is worried she is now in direct competition with her sister for jobs.
"We haven't applied for the same jobs yet, but it's going to be inevitable as we both live in the same area. It will be interesting who gets a job first," she says.