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Graduate employment falls but retail can offer solution

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Unemployment for graduates has risen to the highest level for 17 years, according to research published today.

The annual What Do Graduates Do? report published by the Higher Education Careers Service Unit, found that of those who graduated in 2009 only 59.2 per cent of them were in full time employment six months after leaving university.

Of those who answered a survey of over 220,000 graduates, 8.9 per cent of them are not working, about to embark on further training or currently undertaking another course. This is a rise from 7.9 per cent the previous year.

Retail is one of the biggest employers of graduates with 14.4 per cent of those in the latest survey working on the shop floor, in catering, waiting or doing bar work.

Unlike many employers, retailers have been increasing their graduate intakes and improving their schemes in recent years and industry experts like Antony Wroe, Chairman of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, believe that retail is offering exciting opportunities for university leavers.

Wroe told Retail Gazette: “There are more and more graduate opportunities in retail with the likes of Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda, etc all having varied and diverse schemes.

“Both Aldi and Lidl now also offer graduate schemes, the former of the two offering one of the best starting salaries for graduates compared with all (not just retail) other graduate schemes.”

With cuts to public sector jobs sure to raise overall unemployment levels, many are looking to retail to help people into work.

Last week the British Retail Consortium backed the industry’s potential to create new roles and pointed out that retail employment had risen year-on-year for ten months in a row.

John Lewis recently revealed that it had doubled its graduate intake this year, Sainsbury’s increased its graduate roles to 115 and Harrods has even launched its own degree course in retail.

Most major retailers will increase their employment levels this Christmas as the industry moves into its busiest period and these roles can often lead to permanent positions.

Wroe continued: “There is always a spike in recruitment for graduates towards the end of the year due to the Christmas seasons and January sales.

“Historically these roles have mainly been filled by students, but with graduate unemployment so high - retailers may take advantage of the freer timetables of graduates this year.”

There may be a perception that a role in retail is an unglamorous career move for university leavers but Wroe is adamant that the industry has everything that a hungry young graduate could want.

He added: “Retail is a fast dynamic industry in which the customer is not just always right, but always there.

“Unlike other office jobs you have constant face to face contact with your primary source of income, creating a fast paced atmosphere in which you must prove flexible and enthusiastic - tailoring your service to your clients needs.”

“We need to work towards raising the profile of our sector and make a career in retail a career of choice.”

Published on Monday 01 November by Editorial Assistant

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