University leavers are turning their back on London, the chairman of one of the UK’s biggest graduate employers has been reported as saying.

Consultancy giant PwC has revealed it expects to hire more university and school leavers outside the capital because of concerns about the city’s high living costs and student debts.

Kevin Ellis, the firm’s chairman, told the Financial Times he had noticed graduates were rebuffing London when he gave a talk to 400 university students in Nottingham last year. Just a third said they wanted to work in the city when they finished their course.

“Every hand in that room would have been up to say ‘London’ five years ago,” Ellis is reported as saying. “They said that with [their levels of] debt and London’s costs, why go to London?”

Historically, roughly 60 per cent of the big four firm’s 20,000-plus UK employees have been based in the capital. By comparison, around 60 per cent of graduates joining the firm this year have taken up posts outside London.

Charlie Ball, head of higher education intelligence at Prospects, said Ellis’s experience chimed with his organisation’s data. This indicated that, while London remained a popular destination thanks to its size, the majority of students who start working in London already hail from the city.


“All of this means that a lot of students have no interest in moving to London and putting all your graduate recruitment efforts there means that you will inevitably miss talent,” Ball added. “PwC is making a rational choice that to get the best people, they need to stop expecting the most talented young people in Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Belfast to come to them in London. They have no need to go.”

Sophie Phillipson, co-founder of student and graduate support site HelloGrads, added: “The risk of moving to London is high when work can be found elsewhere. To attract the best graduate talent, rather than the most privileged, businesses will need to adapt. Offering significantly better wages for London workers, hiring outside the capital and supporting virtual working practices is just the start.”

Meanwhile, a study published by High Fliers Research in January discovered graduate recruitment had fallen by 5 per cent in 2017, the first annual drop reported in five years.

Hiring of university leavers by the UK’s 100 leading graduate employers had been expected to rise last year. However, the report noted uncertainty surrounding Brexit had knocked businesses’ confidence.

Charles Hipps, CEO and founder of recruitment tech platform Oleeo, said his own company’s research indicated tough competition for roles among university leavers, which could be pushing candidates to look for roles beyond the M25.

“Students are keeping more open minds as to the location of where they start their careers, and the appeal of being located in a glamorous central London office has fallen,” Hipps added.

Analysis of the UK Visa Bureau’s ‘UK Shortage Occupations List’ by Small Business Prices, published in April, suggested a number of industries in London were facing steep skills shortage hurdles. In particular, demand for finance professionals, director-level employees, chief executives and secondary school teachers in the capital far exceeded supply.

Meanwhile, figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) yesterday revealed one in eight (12 per cent) people aged between 22 and 29 without a degree or equivalent qualification worked in a role traditionally earmarked for university leavers. By comparison, 54 per cent of degree holders in the same age group had a graduate role.

Sourced from People Management - written by Hayley Kirton