Know the job market
Key facts about the south west
- This is the largest region in England, stretching 300 hundred miles from north to far SW
- With a population of less than five million, the SW has the lowest population density in the UK
- Half the population live in rural areas or in towns of less than 20,000 people
- The largest city is Bristol with a population of 382,000
- The South West has three national parks: Dartmoor, Exmoor and Bodmin
- One third of the South West is nationally designated for the quality of its landscape
- The South West contains 60% of the UK's heritage coast and almost half of the designated bathing waters
- The South West attracts 15 million visitors a year, and is second only to London for tourism
The labour market
- The SW labour market has a high proportion of small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – organisations which employ less than 250 people
- The majority of the region’s 210,000 businesses employ less than 10 people
- The SW has the second lowest proportion in England of employment in businesses with over 250 people and the second highest number employed in businesses with less than 10 employees
- Seven of the top 100 companies in the UK are located in the South West and while many more have regional offices, traditional graduate opportunities can be hard to find
- There is a huge economic diversity between the area around Bristol, which has most of the opportunities for new graduates, and Cornwall although this is changing with the advent of initiatives such as Unlocking Cornish Potential
Graduates in the south west labour market
- The high quality of life and range of natural amenities in the South West means that many graduates who have lived or studied in the region prefer to remain in the South West if they find employment
- There are 368,000 graduates working in the region (around 15% of the workforce), and a further 20,000 who live in the South West but work elsewhere
- % of graduates in the South West are self-employed, a higher proportion than in any other English region
- Within the South West, graduates are concentrated around the region's universities and colleges, in the main urban centres – on average South West graduates only spend 27 minutes commuting to work
- Around 10,000 new graduates find work in the South West each year. Over half of these find work in the West of England (including Bath and Bristol) or Devon (including Plymouth and Exeter).
- In 2007-8, of the 3,500+ graduate vacancies advertised in the South West on Gradsouthwest.com, approximately 30% were in Bristol, 20% in Devon, 15% in Dorset and the remaining 35% equally spread throughout Cornwall, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire.
- Overall, the quality of graduate employment in the region is comparable in most respects to that of other regions. 85% of graduates are in graduate jobs and most of these have permanent contracts. Around half have received work-related training and development in the last three months.
- Graduates in the South West earn around 91% of the UK average and earnings for recent graduates are more favourable than in many other regions, but still average £100 a week less than London
- Despite the high proportion of small businesses, more than three-quarters of jobs in the region are in organisations that employ more than 50 people
- The public sector is a very significant employer for graduates. In Devon and Cornwall over 60% of staff employed by the public sector are graduates (compared with 23% in London). Education attracts the highest number of graduates
- For new graduates, analysis of vacancies on www.gradsouthwest.com reveals that the most commonly advertised positions are in administration, marketing and public relations, information technology, creative arts, and leisure and recreation services
- Many graduates feel that they need to move away from the region in order to develop their careers. However there are many opportunities for graduates, especially in the north of the region. Students will, however, often have to work hard to find opportunities as many are not advertised.
Foundation degree graduates
The University of Plymouth Careers Service has published two recent reports (2007, 2008) on the progression of Foundation Degree (FD) graduates, six months after completing their studies.
Key findings include:
- The majority of FD graduates ‘top up’ to a Bachelors degree, mainly at the University of Plymouth
- Around one-fifth enter the workforce directly from their FD
- Within six months two-thirds of those in work state that they are employed in jobs that fit their career plans exactly, although few are in graduate level jobs
- Very few FD graduates relocate within the first six months of graduating. Of those who have relocated, the majoirty have done so to ‘top up’
- FD graduates who decide to ‘top up’ to a Bachelors degree are more likely to be in a graduate occupation six months after they graduate
- Those who decide not to ‘top up’ and so graduate with a Foundation Degree are more likely to be in non-graduate employment
Sources of further information
South West Observatory is a research unit based at Exeter University. The website is a useful source of information on the South West labour market.
Universities South West is the regional higher education association for South West England, providing a forum for the 14 Universities and Higher Education Colleges in the region to work together. Carried out in 2002, Choices and Transitions is a report on the graduate labour market in the South West and is available to download.
To find out more about the destinations of graduates visit Graduate Prospects for details of employment six months after graduating.