A survey published just last week revealed that more than half of UK graduates are working in a job they believe does not require a degree.

The UK Graduate Employment Survey by the Accenture Strategy polled 1,000 students who are graduating this year and another 1,000 who graduated in 2013 and 2014.

Interestingly, the class of 2015 are more optimistic, 77% saying they feel their university education and experience has prepared them well for entering the working world.

60% of the 2013/14 group claimed they were underemployed.

The question whirling around my head when I read about these statistics is what actually constitutes as ‘using your degree’? If we are to base this simply on discipline, ‘I studied French therefore; I should be working in an environment where I speak French daily’, I think we are unfairly discounting a whole host of other skills that university fosters in young people. Independence, communicating, meeting and working with new people, experiencing unfamiliar situations; these are all skills that students develop at university, all of which have a very practical application in the world of work.

Whilst graduates may not walk out of university and land their dream role, I imagine each and every one will be applying at least one or two valuable soft skills in their jobs, which they have gained through all the peripheral experiences that come with completing a degree.

Back to the stats

The difference in opinion between these graduating classes is particularly interesting in light of the recent findings by High Fliers, which revealed that a record number of graduates have secured their graduate jobs before finishing their final year exams this year.

This year’s graduating class are the first to have paid the increased tuition fee rate, and it seems the hiked up investment has motivated graduates to give themselves every chance of getting into the world of work straight away. As a result, the statistics suggest that 2015 graduates are leaving university feeling focused, optimistic and ready for business.

Looking ahead

Will this optimistic outlook mean graduates will demand more of employers? This may well be the case. Having invested such a huge amount in their education, graduates may have an even higher expectation than we have seen in the past, to be fast tracked in their careers and to have all the training and development tools they need at their fingertips.

Perhaps we will see a return to frequent job-hopping due to confidence in the market and therefore more opportunities and higher salaries enticing young people to move ship?

Whilst we cannot tell for sure that this will become reality, these are certainly risks to be considering now so that employers can ensure their retention rates do not plummet. This only heightens the importance of ‘putting the graduate’s needs first’ in terms of development, progression, accountability and flexibility.

Ms Vasudeva, the Managing Director of Accenture Strategy, has here summarised a stark reality: “Employers who fail to create career development programs and a clear path for advancement are missing a tremendous opportunity to attract and retain top talent.”