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PwC loses top graduate employer title to Civil Service

In a desire to launch their careers and “give something back to society” at the same time, this year’s tranche of graduates have voted the Civil Service the top graduate employer, knocking PwC off poll position for the first time in 15 years

According to the Times Top 100 Graduate Employers 2019-20, the number of new graduates applying for jobs in the public sector is at its highest in nearly 10 years.

Eleven public sector employers have made it into the rankings, with the NHS at number five – its highest position since the Top 100 list began in 1999. Unlocked, the scheme to attract graduates into the prison service, was the highest new entry, in 49th position.

Teach First, Frontline (recruiting social workers), Think Ahead (mental health workers) and Police Now were also all ranked in the top 50.

Rankings editor Martin Birchall put the popularity of the Civil Service among new graduate job seekers down to “a combination of the dramatic focus that the continuing Brexit process has put on politics and government; a record number of places available on the prestigious fast stream programme; and a reinvigorated campaign to recruit the broadest-possible intake of new graduates for Whitehall’s best-known government departments and the wider Civil Service”.

Despite the state of retail, supermarket chain Aldi has stayed in third position, behind the Civil Service and PwC, followed by Google (up from fifth) and the NHS.

Teach First is set to be the largest recruiter of graduates in 2020, with 1,750 vacancies, ahead of PwC (1,350 vacancies), KPMG (1,200), the Civil Service fast stream (1,200), Deloitte (1,000) and HSBC (1,000).

The list also reveals that the employers in 11 out of 15 key industries and business sectors – including investment banking, fund management, oil and energy retailing, consultancy and technology – between them expect to offer 24,625 graduate vacancies in 2020.

Although PwC was knocked off the top spot overall, it is still firmly in at the top of the accountancy actuarial and consulting sector, which the Big Four firm’s chief people officer, Laura Hinton is delighted about.

“Our recruitment team continues to do great work offering a growing range of routes into our business for an increasingly diverse range of people,” she says. “Over the last few years, we’ve deliberately evolved our recruitment strategy with a stronger focus on growing our apprenticeships, school leaver programmes, work experience placements and degree partnerships.

“We’re focused on ensuring our workforce is as diverse as possible so we can continue to meet the changing needs of our business and clients.

“While our record of holding first place overall for 15 consecutive years has been broken this year, we’re proud of what we are achieving and applications for our graduate programme increased by 73% in the last academic year, so we continue to be a really attractive option for graduates.”

Interestingly, money seems to play less of an aspirational role for new graduates than it used to. Only one of the businesses offering the highest starting salaries made it into the top five overall – Aldi which offers 100 places at £44,000 a year plus a car).

Indeed, the researchers found that the most generous starting salaries were with investment banks (median of £47,000), law firms (£45,000), consulting firms (£45,000), oil & energy companies (£38,500) and retailers (£35,000).

The highest published graduate starting salary for 2019 was from Linklaters, the Magic Circle law firm, at £47,000, followed by White & Case with £46,000. Two other Magic Circle firms – Allen & Overy and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer – offered £45,000, as did lawyers Baker McKenzie and Hogan Lovells.

Others offering high starting salaries included consulting firm Newton (£45,000) and technology company TPP (£45,000).

This year the jobs market is proving to be buoyant for new graduates despite the ongoing uncertainty over Brexit. As Birchall points out, “The UK’s top employers are planning to recruit a record number of new graduates in 2019.

“The graduate job market dipped two years ago in the aftermath of the vote to leave the EU but recovered well in 2018. The growth in graduate vacancies for 2019 is the highest for nine years and there are more opportunities than ever before for university undergraduates to do paid work experience with the country’s leading employers.”

The research reveals that the number of paid work experience places on offer from the top graduate employers is expected to increase by 1.8% in 2019, while more than four-fifths of them ran paid work experience programmes for students and recent graduates during the 2018-2019 academic year, providing a total of 13,098 places.


Originally published in Economia on 25 September 2019.