Have you considered contracting as a graduate?

We’re coming to a time where students across the university are putting down their pens, submitting their last essays and waiting to don the ceremonial cap and gown. It’s also a time where some will be frantically applying for graduate schemes, jobs and internships with the hope that they can break into the job sector they’ve spent years preparing for.

In 2015 the total number of graduates was 528,545, yet there were only 20,000 confirmed graduate jobs from the Times Top 100 Employers. While graduate roles may seem like the natural progression after university;  the current ‘Gig Economy’ means that there may not be enough graduate roles to go around.

The gig economy is a phrase frequently used to describe a job market that allows contract and freelance work to prevail. It allows flexible working hours and offers a wide range of projects that freelancers and contractors can work on within their industry. With over 500,000 graduates each year competing for the limited number of graduate jobs, why haven’t more millennials embraced the gig economy?

According to statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency who spoke to 372,905 graduates, 78% were in full time work or pursuing further studies. Out of all respondents who were currently employed, only 5% were self-employed or were in the process of starting their own business. The rest of the responses were broken down as:

  • 58% worked on a permanent or open end contract
  • 7% were on a fixed-term contract
  • 8% were developing a professional portfolio
  • 7% were volunteering, on an internship or a completing a placement.

Despite the perceived benefits of full-time employment over-shadowing contract or freelance work, there are plenty of advantages to the alternative way to work. For example, the average salary of a graduate in full employment is roughly £21,000, whereas a contractor aged between 18 and 25 can expect an average wage of £28,000.

One of the perceived stumbling blocks to joining the gig economy is that a graduate doesn’t have the experience necessary to thrive. However, the topic of experience is more fluid when it comes to certain roles, for instance roles in the creative sector – when it comes to hiring someone to design your website, it is surely more about skillset than experience. Many young creatives and those in similar roles are self taught and highly motivated, and the gig economy can help them to flourish and work on their own terms from graduation.

However, only 2% of independent professionals learn about the opportunities available through freelance work while they’re at university, meaning the issue may be a matter of a lack of awareness, not a lack of skill.

In April 2016, it was estimated that there were around 1.91 million freelance workers throughout the UK, however those aged between 16-29 year olds make up only 11% of this workforce. This reinforces the assumption that the younger generations don’t’ believe they possess the skillset needed to become freelancers.

Lydia Wakefield, Education & Training Manager at IPSE commented on this perception:

“Students and recent graduates often have all the personal and professional qualities you’d look for in a successful freelancer. Importantly, they’re ambitious and self-motivated, so they can take their business forwards and take challenges in their stride. In terms of skills, we’re seeing that most graduate freelancers have taken specialised, creative subjects, so they’ve got the knowledge they need to work with the latest technology and get the job done properly”

Between 2008 and 2015, there has been a 36% increase in the amount of people becoming freelancers, with many of these working within media and IT.

About the author

At ClearSky we work with contractors and freelancers across the UK and currently around 74% of these are aged 35 and over. While the number of self-employed professionals is on the rise, we want to help recent graduates find an alternate route to work that takes full advantage of the gig economy.