When it comes to graduate employment, we’ve heard it all. According to the Government’s graduate labour market statistics from 2015, 86.6% of young graduates (aged 21-30) are in employment, with the average graduate salary sitting at £24,000. Which all sounds great, until you dig a little deeper and find that those who studied STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) and LEM (law, economics and management) subjects are more likely to be employed, and also earning more; STEM graduates earn about £7000 more per year than those who opted for a humanities or arts-based degree. So there’s that.
And then there’s the fact that, if you want to work in the arts, moving to London after graduation – if you didn’t snag a spot at Saint Martins in the first place, natch – has been drilled into your psyche since you were old enough to navigate your way through a UCAS form.
A few months ago, I watched the Channel 4 documentary The Job Interview in horror as a clearly bright, fresh-faced graduate bossed her way through a job interview for an entry-level job at a fashion PR company. The salary? £16000. A recent study has declared that, in order to live comfortably in shared accommodation in outer London, you need to be bringing home about £21000. I wasn’t at all surprised, then, when, at the end of the programme, it was revealed that the graduate didn’t accept the job offer.
Sam Wolfson’s essay for i-D on the worth of creative degrees, ‘Do Degrees Matter in Creative Industries?’, is a jarring read. In the piece, Wolfson speaks to an anonymous fashion lecturer, whose thoughts on degrees in her own field are illuminating. “I have hundreds of students on my BA course and it’s just not realistic that most of them will get jobs when they leave,” she says, adding, “if [students] heard the way some of their lecturers talk about their prospects behind their back, they’d feel lied to.”
The creative industries are squeezed. London is squeezed – hence the number of young creatives moving to Berlin for better job prospects and nicer homes. There’s so much creativity on our small island that many of us feel we need to go to university to study the arts. But, given the state of today’s job market, perhaps we should be asking ourselves if we can afford uni – not only in terms of money, but in terms of time. Wouldn’t those three-to-four years be better spent gaining work experience, something which is particularly pertinent in an industry that often requires you to work for free, for years, until being offered a paid job? Wouldn’t it be better to stay at home with your parents, even for a year, while you go to throw yourself into internships and work placements and anything else you can get your hands on? Do you really want to slog away in unpaid work for years after you’ve already slogged away at a degree, just to get your foot in the door?
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