We always hear about Polish builders, Indian doctors and Nigerian nurses coming over to Blighty, but there’s another group of people – much less reported about – who leave the UK to get jobs. And, according to statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), nearly one in ten graduates emigrate for work.
In The Telegraph's report, entitled "Britain being hit by rise in graduate 'brain drain'", Liam Burns, president of the NUS, said the statistics show just how difficult it is for young people to get jobs in this country. He said: “It’s not surprising that more graduates are finding work abroad when employers are offering fewer graduate level roles and jobseekers are being asked to jump through hoops like unaffordable internships in order to get any job.”
Now, although that is true, and there are upwards of one million young unemployed people in this very country right now, working abroad is actually a bit of a luxury.
According to the HESA’s stats, the people who ended up working abroad within six months of graduation tend to be from what The Telegraph call “Britain’s best universities” – which also happen to be the most middle-class universities: Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, Exeter, Bristol, LSE and St Andrews.
We wouldn’t want to guess that all of those who have gone abroad are the richest people about, but there’s got to be some sort of connection – it doesn’t seem a coincidence that universities such as Leeds, Manchester and UEA, which are all academically on a par with the ones listed above, don’t have the same proportion of graduates moving abroad.
Now, we’re not saying that all the people who end up working abroad have to be well off to start with, but what we mean is that it’s not the only option for destitute, desperate graduates, more an increasingly available option.
So is it really, as The Telegraph says, an example of a “brain drain” ? Should we be as worried as Verity O’Keefe, employment adviser for the manufacturers’ organisation EEF, who told the paper: “It is worrying that the UK is increasingly losing top graduate talent to competing countries.
Well, we don't think so. Here's why:
Firstly, a ‘brain drain’ makes it seem as if all of the cleverest people are leaving the country. When we take into account that you don’t have to a) be middle class to be clever b) go to university to be clever, and that over 60% of UK graduates got a 2.1 or a first last year (according to HESA, again) it seems like there are plenty of clever people left in the UK.
Secondly, even if lots of people are flocking overseas, there are jobs here and there are people available to fill these jobs. In fact, there are more people for jobs, so it’s not exactly like a ‘brain drain’ is our problem right now.
Thirdly, as the world becomes globalised and lots of companies exist in more than one country – becoming multi-nationals, people will be offered overseas work through these companies, especially in property, the finance sector, or international development (the latter sort of goes with the territory). Although this does count as people draining out of the country, it’s hardly as if graduates are paddling across the Channel, using their mortarboards and student loan company bills as makeshift rafts, and then scrambling about for any fruit-picking, cheese-farming or sewage-sweeping job that’s about. They’re going because it is an option.
A lovely and perhaps preferable option that’s only open to very few, lucky, people, but still, an option.
Felix Mitchell, founder of Instant Impact, a company set up to give young people internships, told us: “The job market is really tough out there but our experience suggests there are roles out there for tenacious, well-qualified candidates.”
“It is neither necessary to move abroad nor take on unpaid internships to get the right job for students who have been proactive at university."
And we’d like to add to that that you don’t even need to be proactive at university to get the right job!
If you’re interested in work available overseas, visit BUNAC, ICS, TEFL or the European Commission's Culture page and see our tips for moving away for work. If you're set on finding work here, check out, um...our opportunities pages.
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