IT and accounting careers go off the boil with university graduates

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Every year High Fliers Research, a UK research company, asks over fifteen thousand final year students at the country's top universities what they plan to do after graduating. Responses for 2005 make interesting reading: they show an 8% reduction in the number of students interested in accountancy careers and a 9% drop in students aspiring to work in IT.

This might seem good news for people who've always wanted to train as accountants or computer specialists in investment banks. As applications fall, candidates with lifelong ambitions to become a tax accountant or systems programmer should be in luck.

Not necessarily, it seems.

"The fact that fewer people are interested in accounting careers is not a problem for us," says Charles Macleod director of recruitment at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, "There are far more people who want to work here than we can ever accommodate - this year we received around 15,000 applications for 1,000 jobs."

Even though most Big Four recruiters have substantially ramped up graduate hiring this year, smaller-name accounting rivals are equally insouciant. Fiona Henderson, head of graduate recruitment at Robson Rhodes, which boosted graduate recruiting 60% in 2005 to 80, says there's no shortage of good candidates. Nigel Hutchinson, head of graduate hiring at PKF, says the firm received around 1,600 applications for 60 positions.

Henderson says multiple offers for excellent applicants are the only symptom of the tighter graduate recruitment market for accountants. As a result, the firm has halved the time candidates have to accept an offer to two weeks.

IT trainees: Citigroup sees applications drop-off

While accountancy firms are still awash with would-be auditors, students' reticence has been more noticeable in the IT industry. According to High Fliers, the proportion of students interested in IT careers fell annually between 2000 and 2005, dropping from 11.3% to 5.2% over the whole period.

Dr. Mike Rodd, director of external relations at the British Computer Society, says the reduction mirrors a fall in the number of people studying IT at university. He says IT careers have become less appealing following dot-com blow ups, tales of offshoring to India, and the highly-publicized failure of large public sector IT projects.

Nicola Alexandra, head of IT recruitment at Citigroup, says there has been a noticeable reduction in applications for full time and internship positions in the bank's technology division: they fell 9% between 2004 and 2005. Next year, she says Citigroup plans to run a more focused recruitment programme as a result.

Not all banks appear to have been equally affected, however. Helen Bostock, head of graduate marketing at JP Morgan says IT applications rose 15% between 2004 and 2005.

"We're not quite sure why there's been an increase in applications," she says. "We sell the programme as an opportunity to see the results of your work and to be part of a very sophisticated technology business."

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