Key messages for attracting and retaining graduate talent in the South West

Following Gradsouthwest’s work with DCBC over the past few months, June 30th saw over 100 people gather at Plymouth University to discuss talent retention and attraction at the DCBC quarterly conference.

Charlie Ball, from Prospects, gave an overview of talent migration from a national perspective. We also heard from our partners Unlocking Potential with Nicky Luke speaking about ‘recruitment being like fishing’. Sharron Robbie, of Devon & Cornwall Training Network discussed the use of training for retention, and employer-led developments in the Building Plymouth project were provided by Julian Phillips of Midas.

Click HERE for the key messages from the sessions.

Graduates very much in demand – CBI survey

The 2016 CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey “The Right Combination” was published yesterday, and makes excellent reading for graduates as demand from employers for their higher level skills continues and is projected to rise in the coming years. As for employers, they have high levels of satisfaction with their graduate recruits and know just how critical the right skills are when someone enters the workforce – however there are concerns over the numbers of graduates available to meet high-skills gaps.

The survey, conducted across the UK during April-May 2016, received nearly 500 responses from employers of all sizes (51% SMEs) accounting for the employment of more than 3.2million people. Over 40% of respondents had some staff in the South West.  Below we provide the headline messages from the report for you.

Key messages for graduates and graduate recruiters:

Demand for higher skills is rising fast

  • More than three quarters of businesses (77%) expect to have more job openings for people with higher-level skills over the coming years while just 3% expect to have fewer.
  • The proportion of businesses not confident there will be enough people available in the future with the skills to fill their high-skilled jobs has reached a new high (69%).
  • More than four in five businesses (84%) will be maintaining or increasing their investment in training in the year ahead.
  • Fewer than one in ten businesses (9%) has cut back on graduate recruitment in the past year while 29% increased their graduate intakes, giving a positive balance of +20% increasing graduate recruitment. This represents a further expansion in graduate jobs, following positive balances of increased graduate intakes of +13% in 2015 and +18% in 2014.

Ensuring graduates have the skills for successful careers

  • Businesses look first and foremost for graduates with the right attitudes and aptitudes to enable them to be effective in the workplace – nearly nine in ten employers (87%) rank these in their top considerations, far above factors such as the university attended (13%).
  • For nearly two thirds of businesses the degree subject studied is also among the top three considerations (cited by 65%), particularly in sectors such as manufacturing and among engineering, science & hi-tech firms (86% and 83% respectively).
  • Many businesses are satisfied with graduates’ basic skills and general readiness for employment, with more than four in five firms reporting satisfaction or better with graduates numeracy (91%) and literacy skills (86%), and nearly the same proportion satisfied or better with graduates’ problem solving (79%) and communication skills (77%).

So the messages are pretty clear – demand for the higher-level skills that graduates bring to the workforce are very much in demand, and that demand is set to grow.

To delve into further details see the full report.

To recruit a recent graduate or to find a graduate job here in the South West go to:


Dr Deborah Watson, Director, Gradsouthwest Ltd.


Latest graduate employment news – destinations and starting salaries

The latest graduate employment figures have been released by Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA)1 showing the employment destination of the 2014-15 cohort – which consisted of over 668,000 graduates.

The results show 94% of last year’s graduates are in employment or further study, with 71% in professional roles.

Chart 1 shows the breakdown by destination: 72% were working either in the UK or overseas, 6% were combining work and study and 13% were continuing their studies.  5% were unemployed.


The percentage of full-time first degree leavers who were unemployed varied between subjects, ranging from those which have traditionally low percentages, such as medicine & dentistry (less than 1%), veterinary science (1%), education (2%) and subjects allied to medicine (2%) to those with higher percentages of unemployment such as computer science (10%), physical science (8%) and engineering & technology (8%).

In 2014/15, of the full-time first degree leavers who were employed in the UK, over two-thirds (71%) were in posts classified as professional employment (68% in 2013/14). The remaining 29% were working in occupational groups classed as non-professional. Sales and customer service occupations accounted for 10% of all leavers in employment, the largest group in the non-professional occupations. Although we know our recruiters might disagree with these roles being classified as non-professional!

Salary levels

Of those working in the UK in full-time paid employment the median salary reported (to the nearest £500) was £21,000 (£21,000 in 2013/14). The mean salary was £22,500 compared to £21,500 in 2013/14.

The largest median salaries were reported by leavers who studied Medicine and dentistry (£30,000), Veterinary science (£27,000) and Engineering and technology (£25,000).

Next steps

So if you are looking to recruit a graduate go to to post your job with us.  We will go the extra mile to get you great candidates.

If you are a graduate seeking employment in the South West then we have loads of jobs on – so pop there and see what we have on offer!


Dr Deborah Watson, Director, Gradsouthwest Ltd.

1Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education HESA report 2016.

Look into a crystal ball…


…or use the Working Futures 2014-24 report just launched by the UK Commission on Employment and Skills (UCES) to assess the future shape of the UK labour market.

UCES forecast that the overall number of jobs in the UK will rise by around 1.8 million between 2014 and 2024, and that the majority of these additional jobs will be taken by women.

So which sectors are due to grow?

  • private services are set to grow, and be the main engine for employment growth, with business and other service activities such as professional services and information technology seeing the strongest rates of jobs growth;
  • manufacturing is expected to increase productivity, increase skills needs, but reduce in terms of overall numbers of jobs;
  • construction is forecast to rebound producing strong employment and output growth;
  • health & social care is to see large numbers of additional jobs; and
  • any growth in education and public administration is expected to be muted, at least in the early years of the period.
As for qualifications:
  • projections show a continued shift towards more higher level qualifications, with an estimated 54% of jobs at level 4 or above – that’s foundation degree level or higher by 2024.
  • Average qualification levels are also due to rise within all occupations.

So with increasing numbers of jobs, many at higher skills levels, it is looking likely that the graduate job market will continue to grow over the coming years.

If you want to read the detail go to:


Dr Deborah Watson, Director Gradsouthwest Ltd.


Impact of Skills Shortages – UKCES Employer Skills Survey 2015

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) recently published their latest Employer Skills Survey for 2015.

They found a substantial growth in the number of employers active in the recruitment market in 2015 compared to 2013: with 19% of businesses having at least one current vacancy, up from 15 per cent in 2013. This was a 42% increase in the number of vacancies reported.

Within this buoyant labour market, skill-shortage vacancies presented a growing challenge for employers: 6% of all employers had at least one skill-shortage vacancy at the time of the survey, a significant increase from previous reports. This represents an increase of 130% in the number of job vacancies that are hard to fill due to a lack of available skills in the last four years.

A lack of skills in the labour market is seriously impacting the bottom-line: with increased workloads for other staff, difficulties meeting customer service objectives and the loss of business to competitors being the main impact of the shortages. Of those employers who had difficulty recruiting to vacancies, the impact of the skills shortages are given in the chart below:


The types of skills lacking in the labour market included management and leadership skills, as well as complex analytical skills. These types of skills are important when considering the productivity of the workforce and the ability of establishments to innovate through the introduction of new technologies and working practices.

If you have such skills shortages within your business you might want to consider a recent graduate.  What are the benefits of a recent graduate?

1. New talent – it’s always good to bring in fresh ideas and a new perspective, and graduates bring with them recent knowledge from University and don’t suffer from a “we’ve always done it that way” mentality. You’ll benefit from their flexibility, creativity and motivation to grasp a new opportunity.
2. They’re affordable – average starting salaries are lower than you might think at under £20k in most roles.
3. Train them your way – new graduates are ready to learn: it’s what they’ve been doing at University and they will continue to do so when they join you!
4. Future proof your business – entry level graduates can rapidly become your managers of the future.  They tend to seek out responsibility and take ownership of their work.  It is something they’ve had to do to get a degree. Graduates want careers, and if you develop them in house you’ll benefit from that too.
5. Your Return on Investment is well established – graduates generate business growth, improving your bottom line.

All the research shows that graduates make your business more productive, help it grow and improve profit. Why would you not do something that makes you money!

So if you are looking to recruit skilled staff, contact us at and we can help you find a great graduate!


Dr Deborah Watson

Director, Gradsouthwest Ltd.


Further information and the full report:

Do you have the skills for 2020?


So what are the skills you require for 2020?  According to the World Economic Forum’s recent report “The Future of Jobs: Employment, Skills and  Workforce Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution” published in January 2016 the top 10 skills required for 2020 are:

  1. Complex Problem Solving
  2. Critical Thinking
  3. Creativity
  4. People Management
  5. Coordinating with Others
  6. Emotional Intelligence
  7. Judgment and Decision Making
  8. Service Orientation
  9. Negotiation
  10. Cognitive Flexibility
Why are these skills so important?  According to the report, we are at the beginning of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a collective term that embraces automation, big data smart technologies, cyber-physical systems and the internet of things and services.
Such disruptive changes to enterprise, society and our individual experiences will have profound consequences for employment in the coming years.  As the report states: “In many industries and countries, the most in-demand occupations or specialties did not exist 10 or even five years ago, and the pace of change is set to accelerate. By one popular estimate, 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist.”
Here in South West England we are already at the forefront of this revolution: with ground-breaking research and training at our Universities creating the skilled graduates of 2020 now, and a raft of world-leading businesses based here in the region creating the jobs for them.


Dr Deborah Watson


More information:

Who are the Top South West Graduate Recruiters?


South West employers are predominantly SMEs (businesses with under 250 employees), so many graduate jobs will be within these small and medium companies who recruit one or two people each year. There are however some graduate recruiters here in the South West that recruit a significant number of recent graduates every year – and some work by The Complete University Guide has uncovered who they are!

The top South West private sector graduate recruiters are: Babcock, Renishaw, Rolls-Royce, Specsavers, Atkins, Boots, Dyson, Nationwide and PwC – each of them recruiting to more than 20 graduate-level posts a year.

Companies like Capita, Enterprise, General Electric, JP Morgan, BAE Systems, Deloitte, Intel, IPL, KPMG, Lloyds Banking Group, Lloyds Pharmacy, MBDA, Tesco, and Zurich also add significant numbers of recent graduate-level jobs here in the South West.

Significant numbers of graduates are also employed in the region by the MOD, Royal Navy, Met Office, the larger County and City Councils (Cornwall, Devon, Gloucestershire and Bristol City recruit about 15 graduates each, with Somerset, Wiltshire and Plymouth City a further 10 each) and the Universities (recruiting more than 60 between them).

There are over 40 organisations that each recruit more than 10 graduates every year – accounting for over 670 jobs between them.

Here at Gradsouthwest we take pride in helping SMEs recruit graduates – and in helping graduates find the wonderful SMEs recruiting in our region.  We also help the larger recruiters looking to target those wanting to work here in the South West. If you want to know more about how we can help you recruit great graduates then do get in touch via


Dr Deborah Watson


More information:

Data compiled by Complete Universities Guide, using Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey (2013–14) conducted by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).

December 2015 Exeter Business Survey Results

Good news on recruiting intentions from the Exeter business community according to the December 2015 business survey published by Exeter Chamber of Commerce and Industry.  We copy their news story below for you.  If you are looking to recruit, the New Year is a great time to do so, and here at we can help you find great graduates.


Top Exeter Business Survey Findings this quarter:
– Business is preparing for future – 69% of business are looking to take on more employees in 2016
– Recruitment & retention of quality staff is still an increasingly important issue as businesses effected by skills shortages rises back up to 62%

The latest Exeter Business Survey carried out by the Exeter Chamber of Commerce and Industry has indicated that although businesses are planning for the future, there is an increasing concern that businesses are not able to recruit and retain employees with the right set of skills.

The survey has shown that 62% of businesses have reported that the skills shortage has had an effect on their business with 22% reporting this as a bad effect, 14% higher than the last quarter’s survey.

An increased number of businesses also signified that they expect to take on five or more employees in the next year, with 24% reporting this as their intention, up from 14% last quarter and 13% year on year.

Attendees at the Bank of England panel meeting held on Thursday 11th December, at which the survey was presented, gave evidence that while businesses are performing well and investment is seen to be an ongoing operation, there is still an issue of recruiting and retaining staff with the right skills.

Graham Austin, director of Exeter Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said “This quarter’s Exeter Business Survey results show that there is increasing demand for skilled staff as businesses focus on growth. This, coupled with the move towards the Living Wage and auto-enrolment pensions for businesses of all sizes, is likely to add pressure to wage budgets, meaning that careful planning for the next year will be required in order to continue to see business growth.”

The full survey results can be seen here.

Graduate workforce – Patterns and Trends

Yesterday Universities UK published its latest Patterns and Trends report which presents a range of data on the changing size and shape of UK higher education.  Why does this interest us?  Well, it tells us about the changing nature of qualifications in the workforce, and the growing importance of graduates in the mix.

The report focuses on the decade between 2004–05 and 2013–14, and some key findings include:

Number of Qualifications – Between 2004–05 and 2013–14 the number of higher education (HE) qualifications awarded each year increased by 144,515 to a total of almost 778,000.

Gender split – In 2013–14, 56.1% of students were female.

Non-EU international students – The proportion of students coming from outside the EU increased from 9.0% in 2004-05 to 13.5% in 2013-14.

Part-time – Part-time student numbers continue to decline; full-time students now make up nearly three-quarters of the student body, up from just over 60% in 2004–05.

Disadvantaged backgrounds – The student body has become more diverse in terms of student background, with 42% more students from disadvantaged backgrounds on full-time first degree programmes in 2014 than in 2005.

Employment – Figures show that graduates have had consistently lower unemployment rates compared with non-graduates, even during recessions. Latest HESA data show that 95% of the class of 2010–11 were employed or undertaking further study three and a half years after graduating.

We now delve into the employment sections of the report, which we abbreviate here for you…

HE qualifications improve employment prospects. The 2013–14 Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey showed that six months after their course 92% of other undergraduate, 89% of first degree and 92% of postgraduate students were in work or doing further study.

Three and a half years after graduating, 94.9% of the class of 2010–11 were in employment or further study and were earning on average £26,000.

Office for National Statistics figures show that graduates have lower unemployment rates, even in recessions. Although unemployment rates have risen since 2008, particularly for recent graduates, they have remained considerably below those of non-graduates.

Graduates earn more, and a government report shows that female and male graduates can expect to boost their lifetime earnings by £250,000 and £165,000 respectively.

An increasing proportion of the UK population is going to university, and more than half of people in their thirties now have HE qualifications, up from just 36.4% (for those aged 30–34) and 31.4% (for those aged 35–39) just ten years ago.


The number of graduates in employment has increased in all age groups over the past ten years, but the UK is not alone in this increase as other advanced economies are also developing their labour force.

The UK has increased the proportion of highly skilled young adults from 32.6% of the population thirty years ago (the proportion of 55 to 64-year-olds with higher education qualifications) to 47.9% (the proportion of 25 to 34-year-olds with the same qualifications).

However, this growth has been smaller than in many of our competitors, and the proportion of young adults with higher education qualifications remains lower than in many competitor economies.


The increase in the proportion of graduates internationally is meeting a growing demand for higher-level skills in the workforce as the global economy changes.

Looking into the future, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills has calculated that the proportion of those in employment with undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications – which they use as an indication of the demand for these skills – will rise from 28.7% in 2002 to 51.3% in 2022, while those employed with skills below this level will fall from 71.4% in 2002 to less than half, 48.7%, in 2022.

What is clear from the data is that as the economy changes graduates will play an increasingly central role in the UK workforce.


The full UUK report is available here.


Dr Deborah Watson

Director, Gradsouthwest Ltd.



Do you know the SW Labour Market?

The Office for National Statistics regularly release Labour Market Intelligence and we thought you might like to see their November 2015 snapshot for the South West.  We think it is useful to consider the bigger picture when you are looking to recruit – it helps you to understand the state of the market for new employees generally – and here in the SW the labour market is doing well.

Here are the headlines:

  • The UK employment rate, for the 3 months ending September 2015, was highest in the South West (77.9%) – down from the 3 months ending August 2015 (78.4%).
  • The UK unemployment rate, for the 3 months ending September 2015, was lowest in the South East and South West (3.9%) – down from the 3 months ending August 2015 (4.0%).
  • The UK inactivity rate, for the 3 months ending September 2015, was lowest in the South West (18.9%) – up from the 3 months ending August 2015 (18.2%).

So in the South West we have more people in work and fewer people inactive/unemployed than anywhere else in the UK – making for a competitive market place!

The general pattern is for gently falling unemployment rates across the UK, although some of those regional falls appear to be levelling off.

The ONS release statistics monthly, and if you are interested you can find them here.

If you want to test out the market by recruiting a graduate go to


Dr Deborah Watson

Director, Gradsouthwest Ltd.