Underused graduates add to challenges for UK recovery

Thu Mar 6, 2014 7:09am EST
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By Alexander Winning

LONDON (Reuters) - Kath Caldwell worries she may have been wrong to encourage her children to go to university.

"I know they gained useful experience," said Caldwell, a social worker from Warrington in northwest England.

"But they have massive debts and are in jobs they could have got without studying beyond school."

Of Caldwell's four children, three are graduates working in jobs that do not require a degree.

They are part of a growing trend in Britain, where rising numbers of underused young workers are a reminder of the challenges of getting the country's economy onto a sounder footing and rebalancing it more towards manufacturing.

Employers' groups say vacancies for skilled workers are growing as the recovery picks up speed but that too few graduates are qualified to fill them.

Of the roughly 525,000 undergraduates who completed courses at British universities last year, just 11 percent received degrees in physics, maths, engineering and technology - subjects seen as instrumental in spurring the economy.

Manufacturers, who account for about 10 percent of Britain's 1.5 trillion pound ($2.5 trillion) economy and about half of its exports, say many more young people must study sciences to lay a foundation for enduring economic growth.   Continued...

Two graduates arrive for a graduation ceremony in London December 9, 2013. REUTERS/Toby Melville