New research shows active strategies to directly link university degrees to a job are needed, to better support university graduates as they negotiate a rapidly changing labour market.
The report, by the Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work, shows that employment outcomes for university graduates have deteriorated significantly since the Global Financial Crisis, with only 73% of recent university graduates finding full-time employment within 4 months of graduating – down from 85% in 2008.
- At the individual level, a university degree is still very valuable: people who hold a university degree are more likely to be employed, more likely to be employed in a stable job, and earn higher average wages and salaries. Half of new jobs created in the coming 5 years will require a degree.
- However, many recent graduates report being underemployed or in insecure jobs that do not utilise their specific skills—including graduates who studied technical skills or STEM subjects.
- The report makes 9 recommendations to improve university-to-work transitions for future graduates, including establishing a national higher education planning capacity, and creating a timely and high-quality labour force information system.
Alison Pennington, Senior Economist, Centre for Future Work:
“Employment outcomes for university graduates have deteriorated significantly since the GFC,” says Alison Pennington, Senior Economist at the Centre for Future Work and co-author of the report.
“Finishing tertiary education and finding a job in your field is a difficult and haphazard experience, which is leaving many graduates in jobs that do not fully, or even partially, use their hard-won and expensively acquired skills.
“Vocational degrees, which are tied to specific occupations like health care, engineering or teaching, have the best employment placement rates. As seen in these professions, directly linking degrees to jobs through paid placements, occupational licensing and accreditation would greatly improve the situation of graduates.
“A hands-on and direct approach that channels graduates directly into relevant career opportunities is needed. Australia could learn a lot from other countries, especially in Europe, where this is already being achieved through forecasting future skill requirements and planning higher education offerings accordingly.”
Noel Edge, Executive Director of Graduate Careers Australia:
“The overwhelming message from this report by the Centre for Future Work is the need for further research in graduate employment,” says Noel Edge, Executive Director of Graduate Careers Australia.
“Research to explore the emerging work environment for tertiary education students in Australia, beyond basic government labour-market forecasting and graduate outcomes reporting, simply does not exist.”
The report was commissioned by Graduate Careers Australia.