HL Deb 14 July 1986 vol 478 cc672-3

2.38 p.m.

Lord Gainford

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows: To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the current employment prospects for graduates who have recently concluded their studies.

The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, I am pleased to say that according to information published recently employment prospects for new graduates in 1986 are better than they have been for many years. Vacancies are 5 per cent. above the 1985 level, and this increase affects graduates across all disciplines. Thus, young people leaving higher education for the labour market this summer have good job prospects, especially if they are prepared to be flexible and mobile.

Lord Gainford

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that Answer. As regards flexibility, is there any danger that some young people will not take possible employment because they fear that jobs may be too menial? Did my noble friend the Minister read an article in the Daily Telegraph a short while ago suggesting that it was easier for women graduates to obtain jobs because they were more open-minded?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I do not know about being open-minded, but I am certain that employers pay close attention to personal skills—such as, numeracy, ability to work in groups and communications skills—when recruiting graduates, and that is often more important than the precise subject that has been studied.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, does not the encouraging Answer given by the noble Lord point to the need to assist the universities in recruiting new students? Does not the Government's policy towards the universities, as enunciated recently through the UGC, discourage the universities in making this important attempt? Will the Minister also tell the House the percentage of graduates now unemployed?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I am not sure that I have the figure for which the noble Lord asked. However, I can say that the percentage of graduates from United Kingdom universities believed to be unemployed—and of course the precise number is not always possible to arrive at—was only 8 per cent. last year—that is, 1985. Also, the universities, the polytechnics and other institutions taken together produced 137,132 graduates last year. I hope that that information will assist the noble Lord. The important point is to ensure that the teachers remain in good supply; and the Government are concerned to ensure that that is achieved. Your Lordships will recall the Question recently answered by my noble friend Lord Swinton who explained what we were doing in that regard.

The Earl of Halsbury

My Lords, will the noble Lord agree that the employment prospects for graduates on sandwich courses, particularly thin sandwich courses, are very much better than for those on non-sandwich courses? Will he represent to his right honourable friend that some influence should be brought to bear on the University Grants Committee to treat sandwich course universities rather better than the average instead of rather worse?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I shall certainly convey the noble Earl's views to my right honourable friend. I agree that the sandwich course system is extremely valuable, not least because it gives young people a taste not only for the academic disciplines that they are seeking to acquire but of the real world as well.

Lord Annan

My Lords, would the Minister agree that it would be more appropriate if universities were informed that they would give a better chance to their graduates if they went over to sandwich courses?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I think that just underlines the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury.