04Perspectives from Derby’s business community on graduate recruitment

Box 2: Survey summary

40 employers took part in the survey. 52.5 per cent of these had 1-10 employees, 15 per cent had 11-20 employees, 22.5 per cent 21-50 people, 7.5 per cent employed 51 -250 people and only once company had more than 250 employees. 6 businesses were interviewed: four of them operated in manufacturing, one in professional services and one in IT.

As part of this research, Centre for Cities also surveyed businesses from different industries located in Derby to understand their approach to graduate recruitment. The survey summarized in this section, together with the findings of in-depth conversations with businesses operating in the city, provides a business perspective on the dynamics of Derby’s graduate labour market.

Large and small firms used different methods to recruit new graduates

Just over half of the firms that responded to the survey (55 per cent) recruited new graduates. Large firms tended to do so through established graduate schemes while small firms tended to recruit when opportunities arose. In the majority of firms – 73 per cent – new graduates were in graduate roles. Businesses that did not recruit new graduates often preferred hiring somebody with experience, even though 50 per cent of these had roles suitable for new graduates.

Employers looked for new graduates with work experience and attitude to work

The majority of the employers surveyed recruited new graduates because they brought talent to the business. Beyond their qualification, “work experience” and “attitude to work” were the two most important qualities that employers said they are looking for. The subject studied was important for businesses mainly in IT, manufacturing and professional services, but our in-depth interviews suggested that this was of course only one component, and relevant work experience and a positive attitude to work once again also coming out as being important.

Larger firms recruited more broadly

The majority of businesses polled tended to recruit locally. But large employers had a bigger pull with some of them also recruiting from abroad. Interestingly, only a small share of the businesses surveyed that recruited graduates (9 per cent) considered the university of study an important factor. However, from the interviews it emerged that some of the most sought after graduate jobs in manufacturing went to graduates from more established universities, as shown by the data in the previous section, unless there was a deliberate attempt by the employer to promote diversity. Graduates from the University of Derby tended to lose out to more competitive candidates from other universities, unless there was a clear collaboration between the University and the company.

In the majority of firms new graduate wages are less than the national average

When it comes to wages, the majority of the businesses surveyed that recruited new graduates – 68 per cent – paid new graduates £ 20,000 or less. Employers operating in manufacturing and IT tended to pay new graduates higher wages, a finding reflected in the in-depth conversations. These companies tend to be larger and this might explain the high average wages for new graduates in Derby.

Career progression is not an issue but graduates do not tend to stay very long

In terms of career progression, half of all firms surveyed reported that there were no obstacles to career progression. For the rest, size and budgetary constraints were the main barriers. Despite this graduates stayed for more than two years in only a fifth of the surveyed companies. Our in-depth conversations suggested that graduates are often tempted by higher wages in larger cities. However, manufacturing companies appeared to be an exception, where graduates tend to stay for longer periods in the same company.

Lack of appropriate skills level and right attitude to work are the main challenges

When taking on new graduates, 63 per cent of businesses considered finding a candidate with the appropriate skills level a challenge. The lack of right attitude to work (59 per cent) and work readiness in candidates (54 per cent) were other issues flagged by respondents. This finding was also confirmed during the interviews.

More than a third of businesses recruiting graduates see the attractiveness of Derby as place to live and work an issue when recruiting new graduates. Interestingly, the employers interviewed that recruit outside the city did not see this as important. For many new engineering graduates, Derby was the place to be because of its advanced manufacturing companies.