Rural labour markets of the future?

Charlie Ball (who writes the High Peak Data blog) has just written about his predictions for the graduate labour market in 2016… In his blog he makes this prediction:

The urbanisation of graduate work

Graduate employment is concentrated in cities, and that shows no sign of of changing soon. Over 40% of the working population in Newcastle, Manchester, York, Sheffield, Leeds, Bristol, Bath, Oxford, Cambridge, Cardiff, Swansea, Newport, Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow had a degree or equivalent at the end of 2014, and when we get figures for 2015, Liverpool, Nottingham, Leicester, Birmingham, Coventry, Norwich, Ipswich and Southampton could all have joined the list. For graduates looking for work – look to the cities. Smaller urban areas, and rural areas, will have some roles, but mainly in a public sector which is likely to continue to lose jobs.

For policy – graduates will play an increasingly important role in urban economies, and we need to get to grips with a future where the largest group of employees in many of our cities – in some cases a majority, and not just in London – will have degrees.

Interesting eh? Reading this I wonder – if more and more graduate jobs are in cities, what is happening to the experience of graduates who choose a different path and live in rural areas? Partly, yes, their employment prospects will be different (with graduate jobs in rural areas, as Charlie notes, mainly focused on the public sector), but there will also, potentially, be social or psychological impacts. How would it be, for instance to be the only one from your university friends who chooses to live in a location other than London or another city? How would you feel? Would this experience impact on your future choices…? All of these are questions to ponder, and I would be interested in your thoughts…



  1. Glad my piece has got a response!

    I think you raise very interesting and important questions. I worry that the experiences and aspirations of graduates from rural areas and from small towns are being marginalised to an extent and that a conception of success that involves going to work in a traditional ‘graduate’ job (usually in a large city) eliminates socially and personally valuable experiences that matter to rural communities.

    We have to accept that as graduate employment is so urbanised (and not in all cities, either), those who want to live in – or who are constrained to live in – other areas need to be both realistic about what they will be able to do there, but that within reason their choices should be contextualised and accommodated and not compared to the choices of people who choose to move to large cities.

    Does a graduate returning home to work as an education assistant and participating fully in her community in Orkney really contribute less to society than a financial services worker in a multinational in London? Has she been ‘let down’ by higher education if it allows her to return home and make a living in a community that she wants to live in, which values her and where she can make a difference? At present, the metrics say ‘yes’ because that education assistant role is deemed not to be a graduate level job. And the base implication seems to be that graduates who hail from parts of the country with less developed graduate labour markets – be it Orkney or Oldham, Shetland or Skegness should leave home and not come back to get work, even if by going home and getting work not necessarily deemed ‘graduate level’, they may be making as much of a social contribution as they would if they moved away to a city with lots of graduates.

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