Two recent news stories focusing on the opportunities (or lack of them) for UK graduates in 2013 illustrate just how daunting the process has become for young people looking to leave education and build a career for themselves.

This Telegraph article looks at two pieces of research, from the Higher Education Careers Service and High Fliers Research, that show the fall in graduate recruitment and the increasing competition for places.

Although graduate recruitment is forecast to grow by 2.7pc in 2013, this is the lowest increase since 2009 and is unlikely to be achieved in light of the figures for 2012 when growth was forecast at 6.4pc but actually fell, with graduate employment ending up being cut by 0.8pc from the previous year. The competition for graduate places is now estimated at 56 applicants for every job and 1 in 12 graduates are still without work six months after graduation.

It’s obvious that simply having a degree is no guarantee of a graduate-level career, however, it is also clear that a much broader range of skills and abilities are now required to secure employment.

Meanwhile, this Observer report focuses on two pieces of research that show how education prior to university can impact upon the graduate prospects for young people. Students from state schools are likely to achieve higher degree results than students from independent schools (85pc versus 88pc achieve a 2:I or First), yet state school pupils are much less likely to get a professional job after graduating (58pc versus 74pc). The article also states that starting salaries are, on average, far lower for state school pupils than for those from the independent sector.

According to upReach, the publishers of one of the featured reports, key to this is the network of contacts, role models and opportunities that are available to pupils at fee-paying schools, allowing them to gain the skills and experience that make them more attractive to employers.

Although it isn’t possible to replicate directly all of those independent school opportunities within the state system (after all, many of them are a result of the social background and career positions of the pupils’ parents), if we really want to improve the situation for all graduates, then we need to provide better skills training to all young people while still in secondary education.

The economic situation over the last few years has changed the graduate landscape completely and if we want this generation of young people to navigate it successfully, they need to be equipped with the proper tools.