Gap in BME professional employment rate widens

Tuesday 06th October 2015 12:50 EDT

A study by the government's Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) has found that three and a half years after leaving University, more than 20 percent graduates were in jobs that do not require a degree, such as administration, sales and customer service. One in five graduates who left university during 2008 recession found work in 'non-professional' roles.

While employment progression is noticeable (rising from 64.1% six months after graduation to 77.8% at 40 months), the gap in professional employment for ethnic groups widened. 66% of Black African graduates have professional employment, 40 months after leaving university, 13% points below the highest rate.

The Daily Telegraph reported Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union said, while there were variety of reasons why graduates may not be in professional employment, it was 'worrying to see' that disadvantaged students- mostly from ethnic groups and those with a disability- were less likely to be in professional employment than their peers. While the term 'professional' remains debatable, the Asian community, especially City professionals have given their reaction about the report.

Suhash Thakrar, Partner, CBW, London's leading accountant, tax and business advisors, current Vice Chairman and past Chairman of London Chamber of Commerce (LCCI) told Asian Voice, “It would not be any surprise to see that not all graduates managed to get a professional job during the peak of recession. I would have thought that 4 out of 5 who got the jobs is a good record. Further it shows that 1 out 5 who could not get a job in profession at least managed to get a job of some kind! This was when a lot of people in the professions being laid off. So it says a lot in favour for people who graduate.

“It is also a surprise to find that ethnic groups fared worse. I believe one needs to analyse these further between various ethnic groups as there will be wide disparities. This report further begs the question on whether even the black ethnic group who have suffered the worst employment problem, will have still done better than if they had not graduated. My suspicion would be that the non graduated blacks would have suffered even more. Again, it speaks in favour of graduation.”

Dhruv Patel, Court of the Common Council at the City of London Corporation, the first ever person from a black and minority ethnic (BME) background to be elected to a business ward said, “Arguably Tony Blair’s greatest legacy to this country was his target of 50% of young people to go to university. This has given Britain a highly skilled workforce that allows us to compete better in a globalised world. It does not matter too much, if not all of these students do not initially enter professional roles, I believe they will be adding more value to the economy and achieving more rapid responsibility for themselves with a university education than they would without. However, the evidence presented that ethnic minority graduates are worse hit in regards to not entering professional roles is concerning. This needs more investigation and I am sure your readers would be interested in finding out how our British Hindu/Indian community in particular has fared.”

Jasvir Singh, Chair of the City Sikhs Network said, "In the legal profession, the number of training contracts and pupillages following the 2008/9 recession fell by a significant amount and the industry is still reeling from the impact. However, this research is interesting as it shows that more graduates from an Indian background (79.1%) were in professional careers 40 months after finishing their studies than those from a White background (78.7%). Ethnic communities need to be looked at individually rather than as a homogeneous unit, as there is great diversity within them, and being from a deprived background rather than an ethnic minority is probably the greatest barrier towards having a professional career today."

Prinal Nathwani, Chair of the City Hindus Network said, “I myself graduated during the recession and so can sympathise fully with graduates in this position. This is an issue that has impacted graduates from all backgrounds and has been largely down to the reduction in recruitment exercised by professional employers. Experience suggests that limited contacts and the limited development of professional networks amongst ethnic minority communities has only served to exacerbate this issue for these groups, highlighting the importance of approaching and consulting with peers who have overcome similar challenges and the need for those in positions of responsibility to develop offerings beneficial to those who are struggling.”

Rajesh Agrawal, Founder Chairman & CEO of London based commercial foreign exchange company RationalFX, “This worrying report is further evidence of the unequal impact of the Conservative government's economic policy.

“Coming out of the recession the government consistently failed to invest in opportunities for young people, leaving many talented graduates and school leavers short of reaching their potential.

“It is particularly regrettable that this research shows that it is those from ethnic minorities and less privileged backgrounds have been worst affected.

“I'd like to see more help for students from minorities and under privileged backgrounds throughout the education system, to help ensure that these young people have more equal opportunities upon completing their studies.

“This would be better for them, increase the skills base for business and create a more socially mobile society, where every child can reach their potential.”

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