The average age of jobbing Umbrella Company Employees and other independent professionals in the UK’s contracting community could be set to tumble as more university graduates opt for professional freelancing in preference to traditional employment, flexible recruitment experts at Skills Hive suggest.

The increase in the popularity of freelancing amongst graduates is being driven by a major flaw in the student loans system, Skills Hive research suggests, which is pushing young people into devising innovative, self-directed paths into work after graduating. These paths include freelance project work, consulting and volunteering. A recent change in the loans and fees system will leave many graduates repaying their student loans until well into their 50s, and some loans may never be fully settled.

The new system is designed to hit graduates with the highest incomes the hardest; however, according to Skills Hive, the new system is based on linear, outdated recruitment methods where students graduate, get a job and climb the corporate ladder within one industry or company. The growth of people choosing to freelance or go into business has now outstripped the growth in traditional employment by a factor of three to one, Skills Hive reports. The UK’s 4.37 million-strong contracting and self-employed community now accounts for 14.5% of the working population, with savvy graduates opting to freelance on a flexible basis to keep their incomes below the new £21,000 threshold and accumulate invaluable professional experience in the process.

Skills Hive founder Mike Orchard said that employers need to benefit from the diverse talents of these enterprising graduates. Forward-thinking companies, he said, “should reward that shrewdness and scoop them up.”

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