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How unemployable are you?

Reviewing the unemployment rates for graduates in a range of subjects, LSDCA Business Board member Angus Farr is surprised to see how those that studies accountancy and finance fared.


December 2019

In a recent meeting about skills gaps in business, we got talking about academic backgrounds and wondered whether there was any such thing as ‘relevant’ or ‘non-relevant’ subjects.

According to ICAEW’s own recruitment website, there were more graduates coming into the profession last year with degrees in the arts, humanities, science and engineering than graduates with accounting and finance degrees.

Looking more widely across the whole economy, an interesting report is the annual survey by HECSU and Prospects titled ‘What do graduates do?’ which analyses destinations subject by subject six months after graduating, ie, whether they were employed full time, part time, in further studies, overseas or unemployed.

Does it matter what subject you study? 

Overall, graduate unemployment was 5.1% for the 2017 cohort, but there were some interesting variations between subjects. Finance and accounting graduates had an average unemployment rate of 6.1%, 13th highest out of the 30 subjects analysed.

Most interesting was to find out which degree subjects had the highest and lowest unemployment rates. Believe it or not, they were IT (9.4%) and sports science (3.3%). I have to say I was a little surprised these weren’t the other way around, no offence to all you sports scientists out there!

It does seem a bit of a paradox then that ‘computer skills’ are one of the shortages businesses are identifying yet nearly one in 10 graduates in that subject are unemployed six months down the line. Or is there a mismatch between the IT skills we want and the IT skills that young people are emerging with from universities?

Could we indeed say the same about any of the subjects identified?

Certainly, as a profession we don’t seem too fixated on needing to recruit trainees with ‘accounting’ degrees if the ICAEW’s stats above are anything to go by. To be fair, most of us in business are only going to be recruiting accountants with the ACA qualification already and I don’t think we’re too bothered by academic background beyond that (or indeed whether they have a degree or not).

Mind you, what do I know, being a Mediaeval history graduate (5.7%)?

ICAEW is currently conducting a nationwide inquiry into the nature of talent gaps in UK business, and would welcome contributions from London Society members. See article below for more details.

Angus Farr is a member of the LSCA Business Board

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