Most UK graduates are in low-skilled jobs, says CIPD

The majority of UK university graduates are working in jobs that do not require a degree, with over-qualification at “saturation point”, according to a report commissioned by the professional body for human resources managers.


The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), claimed that 58.8 per cent of graduates are in jobs deemed to be non-graduate roles —​ one of the highest rates in Europe​.

Its findings also revealed that the number of graduates “significantly outstripped” the growth of high-skilled jobs – CIPD should the findings should be a “a wake-up call.”

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Peter Cheese, chief executive, said: “The assumption that we will transition to a more productive, higher-value, higher-skilled economy just by increasing the conveyor belt of graduates is proven to be flawed. Simply increasing the qualification level of individuals going into a job does not typically result in the skill required to do the job being enhanced – in many cases that skills premium, if it exists at all, is simply wasted.

“This situation is unsustainable given that the Government estimates that 45 per cent of university graduates will not earn enough to repay their student loans. It’s crucial we as a nation take stock now of whether our higher education system is delivering desired returns for graduates, for organisations, and society.​”

This was leading to negative consequences including employers specficially requesting for degrees for non-graduate roles, despite no change to the skills needed for these jobs. As a result, graduates were replacing non-graduates where the demand for graduates were either non-existent or falling. 

The trend was occurring in the construction and manufacturing​ sectors where apprenticeships have been traditionally routes into the industry.

“Just as importantly, we need to start a national debate about how to generate more high-skilled jobs, which means organisations investing more in developing their leadership and management capability, building more progression routes and improving work organisation and job design so that people’s ideas and skills are used more effectively in the workplace. The government needs to ensure its productivity plan includes a specific focus on creating more high-skilled jobs and work with employers, particularly SMEs, and with key stakeholders like Local Enterprise Partnerships and Business Growth Hubs to help build organisations’ capability to achieve this.

The report: Over-qualification and skills mismatch in the graduate labour market, also makes important international comparisons, suggesting that graduate over-qualification is a particular problem for the UK:

The CIPD is calling on Government to raise their efforts to increase the quality and quantity of apprenticeships to plug the skill shortage gaps.  It urges employers to review recruitment practices to avoid using degrees as a screening process for jobs who do not require a university education.

Prospects, the UK’s leading provider of information, advice and opportunities to students and graduates suggested for more research into the general social value of university education

Mike Hill, chief executive, said: “The CIPD report demonstrates that the task of working out what a ‘graduate job’ is and what ‘graduate skills’ might be is extremely challenging, and is not, as yet, concluded. As much of the data is only partially suited to this difficult job, it’s misleading to conclude that the majority of UK university graduates are ‘over-qualified’. It would be unfortunate if this all that readers take from the paper.  

“The report doesn’t reflect that a university education is about so much more than job training. It adds up to more than basic economic value and has significant and profound social benefits as well, to individuals and to society at large.

“We need to see more and better research on the general social value of university education so that we can ensure young people get a full, rounded picture of the benefits or otherwise of going to university, rather than a persistent focus on one complex issue – that of the ‘graduate job’ – which aims to hit a small, rapidly moving target that forms only part of a much bigger picture.

“Prospects maintains the view that a university education remains the best and most effective way to equip workers with the skills to adapt to rapid technological and economic change – a key labour market challenge.”






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