Ambitious graduates used to go south for the best employment opportunities. Now we are seeing a cultural shift and they are staying up north.

The children’s commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, has interviewed young people across the north over the past year about their hopes and fears of a report called Growing Up North. The report finds that children in the north face familial disadvantage and poor institutional performance, suggesting a desire to leave the region.

Longfield asked children in the north where they saw their future and they agreed on one thing: not London.

For the UK as a whole, 71% of employed graduates remain close to their home regions for work, according to a report from the Higher Education Careers Services Unit (Hecsu).

Hecsu captures retention around the UK using figures on first degree graduates from 2012/13 who were employed in the UK six months after graduation.

Aside from London, the report finds that the North West retains more domiciled graduates and more students who studied locally than any other region.

Charlie Ball, head of higher education intelligence at Hecsu, believes employers should offer more jobs outside of London and use the attractions of a relatively lower cost of living beyond the capital to recruit and retain graduates. And for graduates themselves he advises:

“By and large most labour markets have graduate employment opportunities.
You don’t have to go to London. If you go to London, you can do very well but an awful lot of people go to London. So they shouldn’t assume the streets of London are paved with gold … There are a lot of graduates out of work in London and don’t think that with larger salaries there you will end up with more money in your pocket”.

There is little doubt that many of the “top jobs” reside in the capital. But the real question is, for how long? In the media alone, 3,200 BBC employees are now based in Salford and meanwhile Channel 4 recently announced plans for a “second home” outside of London.

The year 2016 was a turning point, when more graduate jobs were created in Manchester than in London: 3,790 compared with 3,545 in the Square Mile, according to Ball. Ball estimates that Leeds and Glasgow will overtake London in terms of graduate jobs in the next few years.

Indeed, recruiters in London are slightly on edge about their ability to attract top talent. A CBI survey last month revealed that 66% of businesses in the capital believed London’s expensive housing market was having a negative impact on the recruitment of entry-level staff.

It comes as no surprise that companies offer many graduate opportunities outside of London. Consultancy firm Deloitte told me it now offers 43% of graduate opportunities outside of London. This is a 12-point increase each year.

The Centre for Cities think tank said that when measured by a combination of jobs and population increase, Manchester had seen the fastest city centre growth in England and Wales in the period 2002-2015, followed closely by Leeds, Birmingham and Liverpool. London was in 20th position.