This could be a great year for graduates looking to reach their potential.
According to a recent report by AMP and the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling, double the number of highly educated younger people are in unskilled jobs (7 per cent), compared to older Australians.
In some professions, the statistics speak for themselves. Law graduates who secured full-time work fell from 83 per cent to 78.6 per cent in 2013 alone, making it the highest unemployment rate since records were kept back in 1982.
There are some bright spots (see “In from the cold”, below) and there are steps recent graduates can take to improve their employability, according to Dean Davidson, executive general manager at recruitment firm Hudson.
“Graduates have to start developing a strong presence on LinkedIn,” says Davidson.
“The competition is fiercer than it’s ever been. No one is in a position where they can afford to wait and hope to get something from a graduate intake program.
“Work experience is incredibly important,” Davidson adds.
“While they may not feel they yet have the resume or role credentials, it’s still imperative to start building your profile and connections.
In from the cold
There are certainly signs the tide is turning – in some professions, at least – and having a bachelor degree or higher, or an advanced diploma or diplomas, still seems your best bet for employability and job potential.
That is a view pushed in a new advertising campaign by the Australian Federal Government. The television and radio ads are set to an upbeat tune and tell the audience: “Uni graduates can earn 75 per cent more than school leavers and have more career opportunities.”
In its Employment Outlook to November 2018 report, Australia’s Department of Employment states: “The evolution of the labour market towards higher skilled occupations looks set to continue, with employment growth projected strongest, in percentage terms, among the highest skill levels.”
Even the legal sector has rebounded strongly over the last three months, according to Davidson.
“It’s a cyclical thing,” he says. “Legal is now one of the strongest sectors we have. Along with accounting, it is usually one of the first to nosedive, but also one of the first to recover.”
He says opportunity in both sectors is tempered only because smaller to mid-size firms remain largely fixed on short-term returns, but that they too will bounce back.
Meanwhile, the Big Four and other major firms are firmly focused on their graduate programs.
“They need to develop their talent organically, and that means bringing people through the organisation at an early age,” Davidson says. “As such, there is certainly a place for younger people.”
Indeed, according to Department of Employment figures, employment growth is set to increase by 10.3 per cent for occupations that demand a bachelor degree or higher, while job openings for advanced diploma or diplomas will increase by 8.6 per cent.
Accountants should be in demand in 2015, with an estimated 18,300 more jobs to be created by 2018.
But it’s not just about crunching the numbers. There’s an emerging trend for companies to hire accountants who can use data to project for the future and steer a company in the right direction.
Skills in demand
Businesses are seeking technology expertise as more finance departments move from a reporting-focused to an analytics-centric function. Big data is a trend impacting businesses of all sizes.
Companies want people with:
- Advanced Excel skills
- Knowledge of large enterprise resource planning systems
- Expertise in data analytics, advanced modeling techniques and the use of SQL
- Knowledge of business intelligence software such as IBM Cognos and MicroStrategy
- Aptitude with Hyperion (for analyst and financial reporting roles)
- Knowledge of QuickBooks (for positions with small and midsize firms)
Source: Robert Half 2015 Salary Guide: Accounting & Finance Report
“Accounting and finance professionals who can turn business intelligence into business strategy are in high demand,” states recruitment firm Robert Half in its just-released 2015 Salary Guide: Accounting & Finance Report (US version).
“Business leaders desire professionals who can delve into the numbers and explain their implications for top-line growth.”
Financial analysts and business systems analysts are also seeing strong demand as firms look for ways to boost efficiencies, control costs, and wring the most out of existing and new information systems.
In the US, hiring for new graduates is expected to jump by 16 per cent next year and might rise as much as 20 per cent. A survey by the Michigan State College Employment Research Institute (CERI) has confirmed that after information services, finance (along with insurance) will be the fastest growing employment category for graduates, increasing hires by 31 per cent.
It reflects a growing bullishness in the sector and, some argue, an emerging war for talent. It’s certainly great news for graduates.
“More firms are now open to hiring recent graduates with internship or volunteer experience whom they can train for their specific needs,” Robert Half states.
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