According to a report on graduate employment by High Fliers, a graduate recruitment research specialist, there has been a substantial increase of graduate vacancies in 2014, which has resulted in graduate recruitment increasing to its highest level since 2007. However, for those interested in seeing what the world looks like now the fires that ravaged the graduate recruitment engine have cleared, they will see a drastically altered landscape with new opportunities sprouting out of the ashes and the embers of pre-crisis recruitment behemoths still smoldering.
The early- to mid-2000s saw an explosion in the popularity of investment banking roles as the lure of astronomic starting salaries and a promise of the 'high life' attracted the gifted and the ambitious. This promise of a city-slicker lifestyle in investment banking dried up like hair wax in a bush fire with the onset of the financial crash in 2007-08 as bulge-bracket banks teetered on the brink of collapse, with some even falling into the abyss. Graduates who applied to these institutions at the time were met with emails notifying them that roles were no longer available; some unlucky individuals even had signed employment contracts torn up before they had finished celebrating their future career prospects.
As the crisis expanded and engulfed other industries, graduate recruitment programs scaled back across the board in light of declining corporate revenues and shriveling client bases. One area however that largely maintained its graduate intake was accounting and finance; big firms who looked to hoover-up some of the excess graduate talent were met with eager candidates desperate to secure employment. For these candidates, the prospect of 3 years guaranteed employment and the near promise of a professional accounting qualification was manna from heaven.
As the crisis abated, leaving behind it a trail of destruction that manifested as 5 years of economic hardship, graduate employment began the long road to recovery, albeit at a tediously slow rate. However, investment banking has still yet to return to the scale of graduate recruitment that occurred prior to the crisis. Between the effects of increased financial regulation, declining revenues and strict cost-cutting regimes, banks are working to increase productivity levels of current employees before they contemplate a broad expansion of their graduate programs. According to High Fliers, graduate vacancies in investment banking are down 32.5% in 2014 versus 2007 levels.
The same report on graduate employment also highlights the rise of public sector, IT & Telecoms and Retailing graduate vacancies, which have increased 94%, 77% and 58% respectively since 2007. The highest published graduate starting salaries for 2014 are at the European Commission (£41,500) and retailer Aldi (£41,000).
Those graduates hoping to follow in the footsteps of their predecessors may now struggle to secure a career in investment banking or law, but those willing to approach the matter of employment with an open mind will certainly have more luck with their applications.