While London has plenty to offer graduates, the regions should not be overlooked for job opportunities. You may find that your perfect job is located outside the Big Smoke, as Laura Goodman reveals
London has long been seen as a magnet for graduates. Just a couple of years ago, degrees were viewed by many as a ticket to the capital city – the only place to go to get a foot in your door of choice. Fast-forward to the age of the two-car household and the one-penny flight and it is no surprise that the magnet’s forces are beginning to zig-zag. More and more graduates are shunning astronomical housing prices, lengthy average commutes and high crime rates for regional cities. According to a survey carried out by credit card company, Capital One, London and the South East attract 30 per cent of graduates, but a growing number are choosing to stay in or relocate to other UK regions, with two-fifths specifying during the application process that they’d prefer to work outside London.
A graduate’s eligibility to join this "mini-exodus" is industry dependent. Most notably, the creative industry remains content in the Big Smoke and, generally, to pursue a career in PR, marketing, events or advertising, most graduates want to be London-bound. Nick Evans of Impact Creative Recruitment says, "The number of fresh graduates registering at Impact each year has not decreased. It’s important to remember that London is the hub for the entire European creative industry; any changes to that are going to involve much more than building a couple of regional offices across the UK."
In contrast, accountancy giant Deloitte has 21 offices across the UK, aside from its largest one in London. Sarah Shillingford, graduate recruitment partner, says she has not noticed a marked increase in applications for jobs in regional cities, but admits that most applicants prefer to be placed elsewhere. "There are a few reasons for this; some graduates are keen to return home, some move to be near friends and some move for a specific job, but most often it’s just about individuals choosing the lifestyle that suits them," she says.
While it is often true that areas of specialisation exist in London, alternative offices may also have their own specialisms. Sarah says that opting to work outside the city usually forms no barrier to career progression: "There are great jobs at Deloitte’s regional offices that hold the potential to take the employee to the top of the organisation, and ultimately become a partner."
Real World takes a look at some of the regional cities offering great opportunities for graduates:
With more bars per square mile than any other European city, Edinburgh is a fair choice for those campus-sick graduates keen to stop their raging social lives from dwindling. Yet, the fierce young workforce here is highly-skilled and new arrivals will have to work hard before they can get out and play in the manner to which they are accustomed.
The Scottish capital’s graduate community is predominantly composed of bankers, financiers and life assurance advisers employed by the companies for which the city is renowned. For instance, Standard Life, Scottish Equitable and The Royal Bank of Scotland Group have their head offices in Edinburgh, making it a very large financial centre, second in the UK only to London.
David Greenwood, having completed a BSc in mathematics and an MSc in financial mathematics with management at the University of Newcastle, took up one of two places on the three-year Bank of Scotland graduate scheme. David felt that Edinburgh was the place for him to embark upon a fresh start as a professional having spent his life up until now in and around Newcastle. He tells us: "I knew that Edinburgh’s banking industry was incredibly well established and that I wanted to be challenged in order to better myself within that sector. I would have considered London had the right job come up but the opportunity in Edinburgh was perfect and I grabbed it with both hands. I haven’t looked back. Edinburgh is a lovely place, full of culture and history. I absolutely love the festival… and the twice-yearly group finance party at the castle isn’t bad either."
Birmingham University’s website claims that 40 per cent of students choose to stay on in Brum, and such a figure is unsurprising given the ample opportunities for which to stick around. England’s second largest city boasts the largest financial services and creative sectors outside London, but also plays host to a substantial and growing number of SMEs (small to medium-sized enterprises).
In a survey by Growing Business magazine, Birmingham was placed second in a list of top cities from where to run a business. The city’s central location and excellent transport links put it way ahead of sprawling London. Many of Birmingham’s SMEs are employing graduates for growth, snapping up their talent, enthusiasm and fresh ideas, as well as their (supposed) lack of bad working habits.
Huddersfield University graduate Lee Hunter, having grown up in Birmingham, was in an ideal position to begin pursuing his dream career
in graphic design. He started out as a graphic designer for Advertising Synergy, a Birmingham-based advertising, marketing and design firm in the year following graduation. "It was really hard getting started," he reveals. "I was lucky that I had the luxury of being able to do it from home. I compiled list after list of agencies in Birmingham and, in the end, Advertising Synergy was the only company with a vacancy. It has all worked out very well as I’ve been able to get a thorough grounding
in the type of work I wanted to do.
"Now, if I did decide I wanted to move to London in the future, which I would definitely consider, I will have sufficient experience to feel confident in giving it a go."
Manchester is an exceptionally young city, with 20-24 year olds forming the biggest age group. Those graduates, eager to balance the ever-alluring city life with a youthful feeling of community, could do a lot worse than a position under this northern spotlight. Moreover, most graduates are likely to be able to find something suitable here as opportunities are wide ranging, from the financial sector to biotechnology and IT.
Sarah Chislett, 23, moved to Manchester to work on Deloitte’s building products team, having graduated from the University of Cardiff in June 2006. She did her research and the prospect that Deloitte advised 12 out of the top 20 public limited companies in the northwest excited her. Furthermore, she found that the specific department to which she wanted to apply was undergoing a lot of growth. "Whilst applying I was given access to information on positions available in each city. I’d been to Manchester before and loved the fact that there was always so much going on in terms of nightlife and the general social scene. Some people choose their destination by location and some choose by job, I was just very lucky that both matched up. I have no regrets whatsoever. I love my job, my fast-moving workplace and my vibrant new home town."
Bristol means "the place at the bridge", and rather than take this in literal reference to the Clifton suspension bridge, Bristolians like to think of their city as a bridge to the future. For us, that future means a plethora of graduate careers. A designated "Science City" and "City of Culture", Bristol’s offerings are clearly an exciting fusion of both new and old.
Bristol is a popular city for the relocation of established businesses from elsewhere and a major focus for innovations in media and new technology. The HTML web language was partly developed by the Hewlett Packard presence in Bristol. The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) was founded and is largely run from Bristol, Rolls-Royce is based here and Concorde was built nearby.
After spending the third year of his electrical and computing engineering degree on placement at Hewlett Packard in Bristol, University of Nottingham graduate Russell Smith was itching to return to his top-choice company and city. "I can only really compare Bristol to Nottingham and London, and for me it has the perfect balance," he says. "It’s bigger than Nottingham but less claustrophobic than the capital, without the overwhelming congestion. I love the fact that everything’s accessible and you have the option of getting out to somewhere more secluded."
A huge factor in Russell’s decision to return to HP as a solutions storage engineer was the multitude of resources the science city has to offer. "It’s just a very exciting place to be. On top of the two universities in such close proximity, Airbus is just up the road and I have been able to see that develop, and I even got to witness Concorde’s final landing."