If you are set to leave school shortly, or graduate from university, here is some advice: start another course.

According to KPMG, the latest CIPD/KPMG Labour Market Outlook report highlights a job market sure to strike fear into school-leavers and graduates taking first steps into the job market.

School-leavers seem to be the hardest hit. “Only 17 per cent of employers from a sample of more than 500 plan to recruit from the pool of 16-year-olds leaving school in the next three months, while a third plan to hire school-leavers at eighteen,” says KPMG.

For graduates, apparently things are not quite so bad. KPMG says this underlines “the advantage of university study”. Even so, less than a half intend to recruit those leaving university this summer. On top of this, a third of employers say they have already cut the number of graduates they will recruit this year.

Gerwyn Davies, Public Policy Adviser, CIPD said: “It is going to be a long, hot summer for many of this year’s graduates and school-leavers, as they sweat over their chances of finding work… Graduates and school-leavers need to sharpen their case for being picked ahead of their classmates – and fast.

“Government work with employers on apprenticeships and graduate internships is welcome. But the onus is definitely on the job seekers themselves to get work experience, demonstrate a broad range of non-study related skills, and generally market themselves hard.

“This is a tough jobs market, but our research shows that employers are still on the lookout for the brightest and best. With one in six employers planning to recruit 16-year-old school leavers, a third planning to recruit 18-year-old school leavers, and nearly a half planning to recruit graduates, the message that education stands you in good stead with employers is clear. But to be seen as a ‘keeper’ – someone who’ll add value for employers over the long-term – you need more than just a piece of paper with some grades on it.”

Ruth Elwood, Head of Recruitment at KPMG added: “The recession is forcing young people to develop the age-old business skill of multi-tasking ahead of time – launching a systematic job search while still studying for their exams. The harsh reality is that it is no longer enough to start thinking about jobs once exams are over. The signs are that this has been getting through. Graduate schemes have been filling up earlier than probably ever before. Those that do not already have a place for September are unlikely to find one now, or not in their first choice profession.

“The other great lesson the recession is teaching is the need for flexibility. Young people need to take a pragmatic approach and take a position where they can get one, with the hope of building experience and moving into their first choice field later on. The positive side of this is that we have a generation of young people who will be developing the sort of survival skills that their predecessors have not needed. These skills could give them a real edge in the medium and longer term.”

© Investment & Business News 2013