Graduate recruitment is expected to grow more among small businesses than large companies next year, with firms in London, the South East and the North West set to provide the most opportunities, an analysis has found.
A study of SMEs with turnover of less than £5m has revealed more than half of them in London hire graduates, followed by 40pc in the South East and 36pc in the North West. Even in the South West, the region with the lowest number of graduates employed at small businesses, the survey found 29pc of firms take on university leavers. This is just below the nationwide average of 36pc.
One in five of all the small businesses surveyed said they would hire at least one more graduate next year, the study of 1,000 firms by Kingston University and Barclays Business showed.
Last year the jobless rate among graduates hit a record high, with fierce competition for vacancies. Some 10pc of UK students who graduated last year were unable to find work, up from 8pc the year before, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency.
Tom Wainwright, co-author of the report and researcher at Kingston University’s Small Business Research Centre, said the findings showed that contrary to the perception among students, small businesses were able to employ a significant chunk of the graduate workforce with opportunities set to increase as order books improve.
He said: “There are lots of small businesses that are interested in hiring graduates. Students historically haven’t necessarily been interested in small businesses because they think of them as being the local corner shop. But in London particularly, there are lots of opportunities for graduates, in up and coming businesses like a niche web design company.”
Mr Wainwright said small firms did not have the resources to advertise graduate placements at “milkround” recruitment fairs, but they were on track to account for the biggest growth rate in graduate recruitment over the next 12 months.
He said: “We will probably see more growth coming from small companies than from large companies that are seeking efficiency gains. Large companies are trying to seek growth but without increasing their headcount. The road will continue to be rocky for a while among larger employers.”
The news comes as graduates gear up for the National Graduate Recruitment Exhibition in Birmingham, which begins tomorrow and will see graduates come face to face with employers.
Financial services companies are tipped to have the largest number of vacancies for graduates next year, echoing the sector’s return to growth following the recession.
Gregg Carnaffan, graduate development manager at HSBC, said: “Institutions are returning to the graduate space or heavily increasing their numbers. Those from the class of 2011 who are looking at a career in financial services have more to be positive about.”
The National Graduate Recruitment Exhibition runs from 29 – 30 October. www.gradjobs.co.uk
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