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High Skills Utilisation Under Mass Higher Education: graduate employment in service industries in Britain

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This article explores the impact of mass higher education on high skills utilisation in the retailing, computer services and transport and communications industries. In all three industries graduates have been taken on in increasing numbers in recent years, partly in order to meet growing demands for analytical ability, generic skills and technical knowledge, and partly as a result of larger numbers of graduates applying for relatively low-paid, undemanding jobs. There is evidence of graduate substitution for non-graduates having contributed to a job upgrading process in two different ways during the last decade: (1) through a one-off permanent upgrading of clerical and administrative jobs in departments such as customer services and marketing; and (2) through temporary job upgrading as individual graduates in lower level jobs take on additional tasks and responsibilities in the hope of securing internal promotion or moving to better jobs with other employers. However, the scope for further job upgrading of a permanent kind appears to be limited. In general, the burden of adjustment to the increased supply of graduates falls to a greater extent on individual graduates than it does on employers. This contributes to a widening divergence of salaries and career prospects across the graduate labour market.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2002

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