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Graduates and the Recession

Posted on: 30 Apr 09
Graduates and the Recession

Summary

Where the pharmaceutical industry is often said to be immune to economic depression, the current economic crisis cannot be considered a direct historical equal to the recessions of the past.

Thus, where the current crisis finds its roots primarily in the banking industry, almost no-one and no industry is completely sheltered. Innovation in healthcare is therefore paying at least a small cost for what is now the most serious economic crisis since October 1929 and the depression of the 1930s that followed

Yet whilst some of the grandest headlines of all tell of fallen bankers and experienced professionals back in the market for new work, there is another demographic which is being increasingly affected by the uncertainty of the current climate– new graduates.

For where healthcare remains a diverse industry with a plethora of opportunities for its workers, the broader trends should raise concerns and call for new solutions. In a Daily Telegraph article published just last week, Sir James Dyson wrote of how ‘…Every year, the number of science and engineering graduates falls. In the last decade, 18 physics departments and 28 chemistry departments have closed’. To a larger degree, this isn’t something that should come as a shock. What does provide fresh concern, however, is the sheer backlog of new graduates that are now accumulating within the unemployment system and up till now, the pitiful nature of our response. Simply put, at a time of rising unemployment, falling private investment and limited capital in the mortgage market, graduates have more than enough worries to contend with. Thankfully, at least some help is on the way.

To the degree that the state has a role to play in all of this, new government funding in education designed to speed up economic recovery has been taken up by over 70 universities and colleges around the country. And whilst funds from the The Economic Challenge Investment Fund (ECIF) are designed to attack stagnation in all sectors, science has been afforded at least a modicum of assistance. In an effort to boost the confidence, experience and CVs of new graduates, at the same time as providing businesses with the confidence that a steady stream of talent is forthcoming, both the universities of Reading and Surrey (amongst other institutions) plan to use the money to put on specialist summer courses in the sciences and to provide work placements for new graduates. Professor Christine Williams, the University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise summarized: “The scheme will give recent graduates the chance to make a real contribution to industry as well as furthering their skills and knowledge development through industrial experience and higher-level courses at the universities”. Giving graduates the right skills and experiences within an industry environment are undoubtedly some of the best ways of making them worthy of chance in the real workforce. These are perhaps, also some of the best ways of creating a link between academia and industry.


In terms of real graduate opportunities today, there are many. Indeed, where it may be the case that capital investment in clinical trials has become scarce, and whilst it’s true that the recession has made itself known, companies are, of course, still recruiting. The problem lies instead, where the ever increasing number of new graduates are not only competing with each other for positions, but now also with experienced industry professionals laid off as a result of the recent crisis. It is estimated that job cuts across the industry in 2008 totaled at somewhere between 11 and 15 per cent. Consequently, to graduates struggling to make an impression in the employment market at the moment, not only would they boost their CVs by continuing with further education, but critically, they would improve their skills. Patience may be necessary. Picking out the right opportunities? Essential. Yet above all else, differentiating yourself from the masses is the number one way to get ahead in the current market. Companies are very much in the marketplace for the ‘right’ graduate – just not ‘any’ graduate. Masters Degree here I come. 

Max Golby

Last updated on: 27/08/2010 11:40:18

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