Understanding The UK Graduate Labour Market: An Occupational Approach

Monday, July 14, 2014: 4:30 PM
Room: Annex F205
Distributed Paper
Gerbrand THOLEN , University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
The UK graduate labour market has in recent times received a lot of interest within policy, media and academic circles. With relative high levels of under- and unemployment and growing differences in labour market outcomes for graduates, there seem to be a changing relationship between degrees, skills, jobs, careers and rewards.

Our current understanding of the graduate labour market is currently lacking. We need to understand the graduate labour market in a wider framework rather than solely as supply and demand forces. There is a need to investigate as well as integrate how and where skills possessed by graduates are formed, what skills graduates offer employers, what skills employers want from graduates, how graduate skills are used and what impact graduates have on the workplace. Also, the majority of existing studies on the graduate labour market link labour market outcomes with aggregate educational categories and do not explore the role of skills and credentials within occupations or professions.

This paper explores the meaning of graduate skills within three graduate occupations and draws on qualitative in-depth case studies with  software engineers, financial analysts and  laboratory scientist in biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. For each occupation it will show how and where graduates obtain their skills; how the competition to enter the occupation is organised; What the role is of degrees and other credentials within the competition; the employability strategies of those who enter the occupation; the skills demanded by employers to access the occupation; the skills and abilities that are utilised in the work process; and how careers are developed and maintained within the occupation.

By focusing on the variation in development, demand, supply and deployment of skills the paper will highlight the heterogeneous nature of the modern graduate labour market as well as outline a renewed sociological understanding of graduate labour.