Graduates looking to carve out a career in IT by starting out on a graduate training scheme are more likely to start out in London than any other region. Figures from online recruitment site the IT Job Board reveal that around half of all graduate openings are based in London. That's an even greater proportion of roles than the IT market as a whole, where London accounts for a third of all IT jobs, according to research firm Salary Services Limited.
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David Bevan, a director with one of the UK's largest IT staffing companies, the InterQuest Group, confirms, "Graduates tend to establish themselves in a career in London and then take their skills out to the regions. It's far less common for a graduate, once established in a career in IT in the regions, to move into London."
The London-centric nature of graduate opportunities particularly applies to industries such as banking and finance which have always grouped together in the heart of the City, says Bevan. In general, graduate opportunities are found in large corporates which are often headquartered in London, and a significant proportion of IT roles are normally based at the Head Office. "However, industries such as retail have a more regional focus," says Bevan, "and more and more companies are now leaving London and relocating to other cities where property prices are lower. Increasingly, we are seeing a wider distribution of opportunities, though this will not undermine London's dominance of the graduate market just yet."
Maggie Berry, director of womenintechnology.co.uk, an online career networking and job portal for women in IT which operates a specific area for graduates, confirms that "while people automatically associate large companies headquarters with London, many organisations have realised over the last decade that there is no need to pay London salaries or London rents for roles that could be done just as effectively in other parts of the country." She says that a quick look at womenintechnology's graduate jobs page throws up positions in Peterborough, Manchester, Newcastle, Reading Leicester and Edinburgh with a world leading management consultancy, openings at a financial services organisation in Sussex, roles in a major investment banking group in Derby and Glasgow, and multiple opportunities with the one of the biggest global names in technology in Ireland.
Even so, London still exerts a strong pull on graduates. Sam Baxendale, manager of the City branch of recruitment consultancy Computer People, which is based near Bank, says a key attraction of graduate schemes in London is that they often pay considerably higher headline starting salaries than graduate roles elsewhere, even in other parts of the South East. "I've recently placed a new graduate with a masters degree in a role with a salary of £30,000 plus a potential bonus of one hundred per cent of salary," he says. "In general, graduate schemes in London pay half as much again as similar schemes in outer London and the South East, in part due to the influence of the financial sector in the City."
However, Baxendale warns, "When the cost of living and transport are taken into account, graduates outside London are effectively getting the same money, with a better quality of life. But people want to work in London because of the buzz, because they think they'll have better access to a broader range of opportunities through networking with more people."
Bevan agrees there's a perception that there are more chances to build a career in London, "People tend to move between jobs more frequently in London, so openings arise on a more regular basis. The flip side is a higher level of competition for jobs, and greater pressure to perform once in them. For a multitude of reasons, graduates tend to flock to the capital so it is often true that graduates will be competing against people their own age with similar skills and experience," he says.
Graduates choosing the capital will also have to deal with the pressures and stresses of London living. "Hours tend to be longer, the pace of work faster, and wages are always competing against the rising costs of living," Bevan admits. "With more distractions and higher living costs, graduates may take longer to pay off their student loans - and finding a foothold in the property market is going to be tough. On the other hand, culturally you've much to choose from, and London is celebrated for having character and atmosphere. London also has an excellent transport infrastructure both within the capital and to other places nationally and internationally."
Womenintechnology's Berry agrees that London does have a lot to offer, particularly in terms of entertainment and night life. However, she warns, "once you enter the world of work, your days of clubbing until four in the morning and staying in bed until lunchtime will be relegated to the weekend."
Location is also just one element to take into account when choosing a graduate scheme. Bevan says that, irrespective of where the job is based, graduates must be sure an prospective employer ticks two boxes. "It needs to provide good training and support, while also offering real experience in the market they're passionate about," he argues. Berry agrees, "Graduates should start with the company and the role, rather than the location it pays to keep your options open. In our experience, the vast majority of graduates are characterised by their mobility and willingness to live in the region where they receive the best job offer."