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By Caitlin O’Toole
NEWS.com.au
June 16, 2009 09:12am

A YEAR ago, accounting and mining engineering students would be fielding two or three job offers halfway through their final year.

Now, they can’t afford to be choosy, and count themselves lucky to get a single offer.

Graduate Careers Australia research manager Bruce Guthrie said the economic uncertainty takes the shine off industries hit hard by the downturn, like formerly ‘hot jobs’ in mining and finance.

“A lot of employers have just been holding back a little bit, waiting to get some firm idea about what the rest of the year will bring,” said Mr Guthrie.

“Some employers decided maybe to be a little more prudent and either decided to delay hiring, or pay people and say ‘sorry we’ll withdraw the offer’.”

WHAT has your experience been of the graduate job market? Tell us below.

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Almost 70 per cent of graduates expect it will be hard to get a position because of the economy, according to a CareerOne survey. And almost half of grads aren’t working in the field they studied.

As architecture and building, accounting, engineering and business graduate programs mirror the economy, the less glamorous careers will hold up, predicts Mr Guthrie.

“Commonly those are areas in the teaching, health sciences areas, where demand for employees isn’t governed by the economy,” he said.

Headlines about layoffs and fewer graduate spots in the private sector mean graduates are turning to public service, where competition for graduate spots has jumped.

Applications for the Australian Tax Office’s graduate program, with its $49,000 starting salary and 15.4 per cent super, jumped from 1701 to 5312 applicants this year, most with tax, accounting, law or economics degrees.

Employers attending careers fairs have fallen 15 per cent, said Dawn White, president of The National Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (NAGCAS).

But having to fight hard to get a job could have a silver lining, as fewer grads fall into the formerly ‘safe’ career options of law, finance or accounting and think seriously about what they really want to do with their lives, she said.

Although investment banks are still recruiting on campuses, fewer students are showing up for their information sessions, said Ms White.

Students are now less likely to enter banking just to keep their parents happy, even though there are still jobs and even signing bonuses on offer.

“You read in the paper of a company cutting jobs, and then they ring up the next day and want to recruit grads,” said Ms White.

‘Hot jobs’ like IT or banking are just trends, and students are better off thinking carefully about what they really want to do, she said.

Recessions push people to make a more conscious career choice and think about what they are good at and what they really enjoy, because the ‘safe’ career track is gone, said Ms White.

“It might have made people realise there aren’t any specific safe industries, so it’s more important to do something you enjoy and gain transferable skills.”

“It’s forcing students to have a look at their priorities and their reasons for getting into things,” said Ms White.
http://www.news.com.au/business/story/0,27753,25643410-5012426,00.html