Graduates: overqualified and your skills don’t match

Aug 20, 2015

Since school you’ve been sold the idea that uni is the route to a good job, so where are the jobs?

Do you feel that you are overqualified in a job that doesn’t allow you to use your skills? If so then you share the feeling with about 50% of your fellow graduate peers.

That’s the picture painted by the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development. Graduates are over qualified and their skills don’t match what employers need. And when we say your skills don’t match we mean it in the sense that you probably have skills that the jobs you’re being offered doesn’t need. It means 50% of graduates have greater potential than they are currently being able to demonstrate in the job roles they have.

What’s sad about this is that the last figures I had for the number of graduates that never walk into graduate level employment was 33%.

What does it mean for you if you’re about to graduate?

Battle. This really is a market where it is about survival of the fittest because it means getting a graduate level job is a matter of competition. It’s about battle. You have to decide if it is one worth fighting and by the looks of what it’s cost you, I’d say it is. It’s not just the three or four years of your life you’ve invested. Your education has cost you an arm and a leg – at least £60k – and you’re in debt up to your eyeballs.

What’s caused the over-qualification in the graduate market?

The CIPD’s latest report tells us that the UK higher education (HE) system has expanded rapidly from the end of the 1980s so that by the middle of the last decade – by 2004–5, participation rates reached 43% and have stayed at that level ever since, despite two major funding reforms (BIS, 2013).

The result is that while the HE system has expanded the jobs market hasn’t been able to absorb the extra numbers of graduates coming out of university so we find that graduates are having to settle for jobs that previously would not have required degree level education. This share has increased to 21% for administrative occupations, 13% for both sales and personal service occupations, and to 8% even for the lowest-skilled elementary occupations. These are areas of industry where once upon a time graduate presence was zilch.

In the fields where a higher proportion of graduates have been traditionally employed, such as in the professional occupations, we have seen a rise from 43% in 1991 to 78% in 2014.

So we see, as the report points out, that the increase in the numbers of graduates in the UK has not been matched with an increase the creation of jobs to match that skill level.

What’s the point of getting a degree?

This makes it difficult for a graduate to progress. It makes it difficult for graduates to find a job that matches their level of skill and education and therefore of course to find one that pays well.

What’s the point then of getting a degree? Well a degree has become necessary for a larger number of jobs. In fact the CIPD argues that the “HE is acting as a filtering device to identify the most able individuals” to do jobs even through “these individuals are no more or less productive in such jobs than their mothers or fathers”.

One of the arguments put forward to explain why all of this may not be such a bad thing is that perhaps we are only just catching up with a demand for higher level skills that had already existed. So, in effect, UK employers are for the first time being able to find people with the skills needed to fill positions. Ok, that’s great, but we’re still faced with the problem that we’ve met that demand and reached overflow. We still have the problem of finding graduate level employment for those who cannot find one.

The only way through is to battle. Arm yourself with the determination to succeed and you will.

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