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Wales hit by graduate brain drain as half leave home behind; Figures reveal only 48% stay to take up jobs.

Byline: Abbie Wightwick

AN ALARMING brain drain can be exposed today-more than half of Wales' graduates leave the nation to work elsewhere.

A new report shows Wales retains fewer of its first degree graduates than any other UK nation, posing huge problems for employers in specialities including maths and marketing.

The latest figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency - based on a "where are they now" survey of those who graduated in 2003 - found that by 2006 only 48% of graduates from universities in Wales were working in Wales.

This compared to:

98% of graduates from universities in England staying to work in England;

88% of graduates from universities in Northern Ireland staying to work there;

The figure for Scotland was 75%.

Business leaders and recruitment agencies responded by saying Wales must domore to keepits graduates, whether they are originally from Wales or not.

Firms are already experiencing difficulties in recruiting graduates in some subjects and higher education was not keeping pace with business changes, one recruitment agency director warned.

Chris Jones, founder and director of Cardiff-based Professional Recruitment Wales, said, "There is definitely a skills shortage in certain areas at graduate level in Wales. There's historically a mismatch between the types of graduates we are producing and what is needed.

"There's been quite a rapid change in the last five years. Manufacturing jobs have gone to other parts of the world yet our universities are producing graduates for those industries. That accounts for some of the discrepancy in these figures.

"There is a rise in financial services in Wales and as hortage of people with degrees in maths, stat-istics and marketing. We are, in part, the victims of education not keeping pace with the real world in Wales. Wages over the border may also be higher.

"It does matter if companies here have skills shortages because, if companies are looking to locate here and Wales does not have a graduate talent pool, they will go to Scotland or Ireland, so it is creating a dangerous brain drain."

Leighton Jenkins, assistant director of policy at CBI Wales, said, "These statistics are quite evenly split. This is in part a positive reflection on the high quality of Wales' graduates being in such demand. However, our country's economic future lies in our ability to hold on to more of these graduates, we do this by providing more well paid and rewarding careers.

"The Welsh Assembly Government has a challenging target of 80%employment by 2011 and graduate jobs will play a crucial role in reaching this goal. The Government should grasp the opportunity presented by future skills shortages to ensure even more of Wales' graduates are able to stay on in Wales.

"Wales has world-class universities and a strong base of innovative companies. We must build on these strengths, attract more research and development-based companies to Wales and invest in stronger business-university collaboration.

"These actions should grow the market for graduate skills and also helpincrease Wales' performance.

We should also bear in mind that, while some Welsh graduates start their careers outside of Wales, many return to settle down and start a family, bringing with them a whole range of skills and experience."

A breakdown of England's regions shows Wales keeps more of those graduating from its universities than all parts of England except the North West and London.

There is no regional breakdown for Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.

The HESA report Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education in Wales: Longitudinal survey (2002/03 Cohort), says, "Fewer graduates from Wales remained in Wales for employment than the equivalent rate for other UK countries, but the retention rate was comparable to English regions."

The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales said Wales should compare itself to English regions.

A spokeswoman said, "Studies have shown that Wales exports graduates, but no more so than many other UK regions (except the South East of England).

"Our 2006 Institute of Employment Studies Welsh Graduates and their Jobs showed that Wales was able to retain highly qualified graduates where it could offer good jobs, and indeed recruit well-qualified graduates from England and elsewhere in similar circumstances."

For the whole of the UK the figures show that, three years after graduating, 80%were in work.


HEADING OFF Many Welsh graduates choose to leave
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 1, 2008
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