Page last updated at 07:58 GMT, Wednesday, 15 October 2008 08:58 UK

Graduates optimistic about future

First minister Alex Salmond has said Scotland's economy is "facing extraordinary and highly volatile circumstances."

So how will the financial crisis affect those hoping to enter the job market next year?

BBC Scotland caught up with students at the country's largest graduate fair.

Hayley Jarvis
BBC Scotland news website reporter

HBOS stall at SECC
Students visit a HBOS stall at the SECC

A total of 125 businesses have pitched stalls at the SECC, including retailers, oil and gas companies and banks.

Yes, banks. Indeed, the three recently rescued by the 37bn government bail out, the Royal Bank of Scotland, HBOS and Lloyds TSB, were in attendance.

Their representatives had been briefed not to speak to the media, but some of the students visiting their stalls were happy to talk.

Michelle Cowan, 28, is studying science and technology at Stowe College in Glasgow. She had visited the RBS stall.

She said: "It's quite scary at the moment. But it will probably be a few years before I graduate and hopefully it will be sorted by then."

Gavin McLean, 21, is a management and finance student at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen. He said he was interested in RBS because it is one of Scotland's largest employers.

"I'm doing management and finance and I don't have one particular career path in mind, I'm keeping my options open.

"I'm from Aberdeen and a lot of the economy is oil and gas related and I'm worried if that is still going to be around in 20-30 years time.

"People will still need to bank though, so there should be some retail career options."

Alan Porteous
Alan Porteous thinks there will be jobs for graduates.

Alan Porteous, is studying risk management at Glasgow Caledonian University. The 22-year-old graduates in two years and was waiting to speak to someone from the HBOS stall.

"I'm studying quite a specific course, there aren't many risk management students in the UK, " he said.

"Even in the current climate there will be a need for more people in this area. That's where the banks ran into trouble."

He said it was unfortunate that the banks had to be bailed out.

"It's a shame, but at the end of the day the government had to do what it did. As long as jobs are kept in Scotland, that's ok," he said.

Same numbers

Overall, the economic outlook may seem gloomy, but it appeared to be business as usual.

"I think the situation has escalated so quickly it hasn't totally got through to the graduates yet," said Barbara Graham, director of the careers service at Strathclyde University.

"They don't know what it might mean to them."

Ms Graham is one of the organisers of the two-day event, which is in its nineteenth year.

She said: "It's only just begun, but I'm very happy at how busy it is.

"Last time we had 4,000 people over two days. If it stays this busy should get the same numbers.

"I think what might be interesting is whether the companies here represent fewer vacancies."

It's quite scary at the moment. But it will probably be a few years before I graduate and hopefully it will be sorted by then
Michelle Cowan, Student

Despite reports of a down-turn in the construction industry, the civil engineering students I spoke to said employers were still looking for graduates.

"One of our lecturers was saying this was the greatest times ever to be a civil engineer," said Richard Kennedy, a 23-year-old student in his final year at the University of Dundee.

He said his teacher had told them the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the London Olympics could offer good career opportunities.

"A lot of projects are stopping," said Andrew Hislop, 21, also a student at Dundee. "But the government will still need to build things like hospitals and roads."

David Steven, 22, said: "A lot of major consultancies still seem to be hiring like mad. One website says there are 150 vacancies."

Small businesses

Elsewhere at the SECC, it was claimed that small to medium sized businesses and graduates could work together to survive the economic crisis.

Robert Calder, a Scottish Enterprise graduates for business adviser, said companies could take on graduates for short-term projects - such as marketing.

He said: "The graduate would get real experience and be employed by the company. So when things get better they can say "look I've done this.""

As the credit crunch sets in and consumers tighten their belts, will more graduates be queuing up to work for low-priced supermarket chains, such as Lidl?

One of their representatives, who did not want to give his name, said the company had been getting a lot of media exposure as people have become more price conscious, but they have always been popular with graduates.

He said: "I've been to a lot of recruitment fairs and people are asking the same kinds of things. They know a lot about us already. We work very closely with universities."


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