Graduates lacking the skills for work

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Britain is awash with vacancies for graduates, yet employers are struggling to find university leavers with the right skills - or the right attitude - for the job.

The number of jobs available to British graduates will grow by more than a sixth this year, but employers are increasingly worried that picky university leavers lack not only the right skills and qualifications, but even the right outlook to get on in the world of work.

Graduates vacancies, the Association for Graduate Recruiters has predicted, will grow by 15.1 per cent, significantly higher than last year's 5.2 per cent.

Yet this will not be accompanied by an equivalent increase in starting salaries, which are expected to go up by just 2.1 per cent to £23,431, with two out of five employers complaining they are unable to fill what vacancies they have.

The main challenge for employers in filling positions, said the AGR, was finding applicants with the right combination of skills, particularly those with "soft" skills such as team-working or leadership.

Employers also worried there was a lack of graduates with the right sort of specific qualifications to do their job.

There were also worries that graduates were becoming increasingly selective and demanding, with many dismissing industries because of a negative perception about them or being unwilling to travel or relocate to other parts of the country to land a job.

Carl Gilleard, AGR chief executive, said: "The main shortfalls appear to be in industries where specific qualifications are essential, such as construction and engineering, and where applicants are unable to demonstrate the right combination of 'softer' skills such as team-working, in addition to their academic achievements."

The growth in vacancy numbers would be highest in the booming investment banking sector, with demand highest within fund management and accountancy or professional service firms, it forecast.

There would also be increased demand with transport and logistics, construction, telecommunications and the public sector, it added.

Geographically, London remained the epicentre for graduate level jobs. Last year it reported a 10 per cent increase in vacancies, and this trend would continue into 2007, said the AGR.

Globally, vacancies within Europe were predicted to rise by nearly a fifth, it added.

The highest average starting salary last year – £36,000 – was paid to graduates in investment banking and fund management.

Law firms also broke the £30,000 barrier for the first time, offering a median of £31,300.

This year would also see a decrease in the number of organisations offering lump sum payments for graduates, although still more than a third, with the average amount being remaining static at £2,000.

When it came to other benefits, nine out of 10 organisations said they would offer pension schemes and travel allowances as a sign-on incentive, in part to counteract the increase in the number of graduates unwilling or unable to relocate, said the AGR.

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