Young graduates are gravitating towards employment in government and parastatal organisations, while the traditionally popular mining houses are falling out of favour as employers of choice. 
These are some of the findings from Universum South Africa’s annual survey of over 16 900 tertiary students from all 23 accredited tertiary institutions, and over 9 100 professionals.
In recent years, government departments and parastatals have increased in popularity as ideal employers, as has government as a preferred industry after graduation.
“This is a global trend we are seeing in a number of other markets,” says Jenali Skuse, research manager at Universum. “In uncertain economic times, students tend towards government as it is an employer associated with stability and job security.”
However, of those respondents who are classified as “high achievers”, government is not as popular, with the prestigious companies in the private sector being most popular with this group.
Although gender income equality is a priority on the transformation agendas of many companies, the research shows that women both expect to earn less, and do earn less at all levels. Female students expect on average 16,5% less than male students in their first job after graduation, and female professionals at all levels consistently earn less than their male counterparts.
Engineering is still a male dominated profession and appears that it will be for a number of years to come. Of the student respondents who chose engineering as their main field of study, only 27% were female. In terms of race, however, there does appear to be transformation in the engineering area of study, with 70% of respondents identifying themselves as black while 17% identify themselves as white.
White students have the lowest salary expectations, expecting to earn R224 039.00 per annum in their first job after graduation, followed by Indian and Asian students, R238 623.00 per annum. Black students have the highest salary expectations, expecting R250 958.00 per annum in their first job.
“Students are well aware of the challenges faced when trying to find a job, and white students tend to perceive themselves as less likely to be hired as a result of the BBEEE codes, which is reflected in their salary expectations,” says Skuse.
Professional training and development is the most attractive attribute of employer attractiveness for all students, irrelevant of their area of study.
“Gen Y students are ambitious and impatient, as the generation of the information era they want to learn fast, advance fast and become leaders fast.”
In general there has been a decrease in popularity of mining houses (except Arcelor Mittal and Anglo American) for engineering students despite mining being the third most popular preferred industry for the group.
“With all the protest action and debate over the nationalisation of mines there is little surprise in the decrease in the popularity of the mining companies,” says Skuse. “What is surprising is that mining as an industry is still so popular – however, this is a trend we expect to see vast changes in the upcoming survey.”
The annual Universum rankings and associated trend reports are important indicators of employment trends, young people’s expectations for the future, as well as the current skills gap within the South African job sector.
The research additionally informs the Universum IDEAL Employer rankings, which measure an organisation’s level of employer attractiveness in comparison with other competing employers. The 2012 rankings will be announced at the Universum Awards on 7 March 2013.