A RECENT study has found that 38% of recent graduates in the South West have successfully found full-time work in the career of their choice.

The new research published today by Endsleigh, which has been insuring students, graduates and young professionals since 1965.

The figure compares with the national average of 34% and contrasts with the optimism of current final-year students, 62% of whom, in the South West, said they expect to find a permanent job within 12 months of graduation, suggesting that the reality of the employment market proves more difficult than students expect when they leave university.

Endsleigh's report on student and graduate career expectations and experiences was based on national research conducted by NUS Services Research Department.

The survey collected the views of 1423 final year students and 971 graduates (79% of whom were aged between 21 and 24).

The results found that female final year students are more realistic about the difficulties they face, with almost two-thirds (61%) saying that they will struggle to find a job after graduating, compared with just over half (53%) of males.

In terms of salaries, Endsleigh found that in the South West, 50% of respondents stated their current wage is lower than expected. 61% currently earn £15,999 or less, compared with the national average of 57%, with some within this group claiming to earn nothing at all.

As expected, the survey found that graduates in London earn the most, with almost half (48%) earning £16,000 or more, compared with just 37% in the South West and a national average of just over a third (38%).Overall, 23% of respondents in the South West said they earned between £16,000 and £21,999.

Endsleigh found that 71% of graduates in the South West area agree that university enhanced their chances of getting a job (83% for final year students).

In addition, only 52% of university leavers in the South West found that their university experience had set them up for life in the wider world, 85% of these graduates claim university had helped build their self-confidence in meeting people and socialising, with 63% saying it taught them how to manage their own money and 74% saying it had helped widen their interests.

Antonia Olex, a recent graduate of the University of Exeter, said: “As a final year student, I thought I would find a job in advertising fairly quickly but it wasn’t as easy as I assumed.

"The scale of the competition quickly became clear- on one advertising grad scheme, over 900 people applied for twelve places! Getting to the interview stage was a daunting process and that was only the first step.

"I’ve now been working in property for a year and although I’d previously dismissed it as an option, I am really enjoying it and luckily it seems to be the career for me. I’m also earning more than I expected, which is a bonus!”

Kim McGuiness, Higher Education Engagement Manager, Endsleigh Insurance, said: “As they prepare to leave university behind them, students today are, on the whole, realistic about the challenging time they face as they look to kick-start their careers.

"For some, however, finding a job they want that meets their salary expectations will undoubtedly be even harder than expected.

"The research has shown that graduates are nonetheless encouraged by the skills they have developed whilst at university, which they say have boosted their employability and also helped prepare them for life in the wider world more generally.”