“In the UK those leaving school and university seem less prepared to make a career in industry than to join a merchant bank in the City of London or one of the public services. It is partly a question of tradition and prestige but also one of finance. “
Prestige and remuneration are two pretty good reasons to apply for a job. What is depressing is that for graduates looking for some return on the thousands of pounds they have invested in their education over the last three or four years, often the only way to achieve such prestige and remuneration is to apply for a job in financial services or banking. So, it is partly a question of tradition, prestige, finance, but also most significantly, opportunity.
…employed across a variety of industries…
In 2011 of 16, 408 graduates employed across a variety of industries, 51% were either in banking, financial services, or consulting.
At a recent careers fair held at my university, of 49 potential employees present, over half were from the aforementioned sectors.
…many go onto having successful careers…
Now my purpose here is not to take anything away from a career in banking, financial services or consultancy. Every graduate has their own priorities when applying for a job and many go onto having successful careers in these sectors.
Neither am I making light of the importance that these industries have to the British economy. Financial services currently account for approximately 10% of the UK’s GDP. Regardless of any populist ‘banker bashing’ discourse that has become fashionable since 2008, in its current state this country needs a successful financial services industry if we are to see a return to economic prosperity.
…dominating the career opportunities…
But of course our economy is going to be worryingly reliant on financial services if 51% of jobs available to our graduates are in that particular industry. As the opening quote on this article makes clear, it is the trio of tradition, prestige and remuneration that maintains this cycle. Thoroughly highlighting the endemic relationship the UK has with banking and financial services is the fact that this quote was made, not in 2008 in the wake of the recession, but in 1979 as part of a dispatch from Nicholas Henderson, a British diplomat based in France. It was entitled, ‘Britain’s Decline: It’s Causes and Consequences’, and was written at a time when the government had recently accepted IMF bailout funds.
Why haven’t things changed 33 years later? Deregulation in the City in the 1980s seemed to advocate the future of British economy being closely tied to financial services. But why, in the light of the 2008 financial crisis, is the City of London still dominating the career opportunities for the nations most able graduates?
…we seek to create a sustainable economic system…
Surely now, in economic circumstances not dissimilar to that in 1979, there needs to be a realignment in our country’s economic framework if we seek to create a sustainable economic system that is not so closely tied to uncontrollable international trends.
Henderson went on to mention the German economy commenting, “industry has tended to attract the best people.” Indeed, Germany’s ability to ride the 2008 financial crisis was dependent on its economic reliance on companies such as BMW, Siemens and Volkswagen– whose operations differs starkly from RBS, Lloyds or Ernst & Young.
Germany has the largest economy in Europe and the fifth largest in the world. At the heart of the German economy lies the manufacturing industry and key to its success is its ability to attract the crop of its graduate talent.
And yet what can we do about this in the UK? We can’t just mimic a German economy that has been developing for hundreds of years. So what are the options?
…We need to work with what we have got…
When graduate jobs aren’t exactly jumping out the woodwork, perhaps we should be glad that PwC, Deloitte and KPMG will offer 2,400 jobs to recent graduates this year. We might love to hate ‘bankers’, the City and anything remotely approaching financial services, but without them, where would we be?
It would be great if Rolls-Royce or Land Rover had the industrial clout of BMW or Volkswagen, but they don’t. We need to work with what we have got and ultimately let the private sector create jobs in its own time. We didn’t allow ‘traditions’ to change in 33 years. Lets hope things will be different in 2042.