Applying for dozens of jobs without receiving so much as an acknowledgment in return and failing to secure that elusive first step on the employment ladder because of the sheer intensity of competition: that is the experience of too many young people who have graduated from college or university over the past four years.
So news that two major employers are to expand their programme of graduate recruitment in Scotland will give renewed hope to those who have stepped out of university into the full icy blast of recession. BP is increasing its UK-wide graduate intake this year by 50% to 244, while accountancy firm Ernst & Young is to start recruiting 750 graduates and 400 interns from next month.
It is heartening news that comes in the same week as a report by the Higher Education Statistics Agency showing that 93% of Scottish graduates were in work or further study six months after graduating, the highest rate in the UK, and that the starting salary for Scottish graduates, at £21,500, was higher than in the rest of the UK.
At the same time, the Scottish Government has launched a £505,000 pilot scheme in which businesses with fewer than 50 employees will be able to claim up to £3000 to take on a graduate in a permanent post.
All this belongs firmly under the heading "good news". Yet it comes with caveats. More than 90% of graduates may be in employment, but for too many, that employment is part time, insecure, low paid or all three. That coveted graduate job still eludes many highly qualified young people. The Scottish Government, meanwhile, should be commended for being willing to try creative new ways of tackling graduate unemployment. Yet it must not divert attention from tackling the broader underlying causes of youth unemployment, a problem which continues to blight the lives and long-term prospects of thousands of young people, particularly those lacking tertiary qualifications.
The state of the employment market for 16 to 25-year-olds remains a major concern. In April, the Scottish Trades Unions Congress (STUC) highlighted figures showing that the number of long-term unemployed young people had grown 1250% in the four years since mid-2008, with Scotland faring by far the worst among the nations of the UK.
Recent unemployment figures showed that the number of 16 to 24-year-olds claiming Jobseeker's Allowance had dropped between February and April, but 86,000 are still stuck on the benefit.
Announcements of increased graduate recruitment by large international companies and the launch of incentive schemes to smaller businesses to employ young people are helpful. However, restoring confidence among small- and medium-sized enterprises, the backbone of Scotland's economy, remains the key to tackling youth unemployment.
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