University graduates across the UK want to see higher starting salaries for first jobs amidst the cost of living crisis.
New research by careers platform Bright Network, shared with Sky News, reveals students expect starting salaries to be over £30,000 - 25% more than the current national average starting salary.
Due to the impact and stress because of the rising cost of living, the undergraduate students surveyed expressed "genuine concerns around the economic climate, their careers and future working life".
The financial challenges are forcing young people to find ways to supplement their main source of income. Almost eight in 10 of the students surveyed said they'd consider taking up a personal 'side hustle' to bring in extra cash.
Like tens of thousands of university students Alex Johnson is back on campus for his final year and life in a working world is becoming very real for him. But with the financial future looking bleak, finding a job which pays enough is proving difficult.
He told Sky News: "A lot of them just say the salary is competitive and it's hard to get a good grasp on what that actually means. But the ones I do see, they range between 20k to 30k, which is alright, but as a student in the cost of living crisis, I'm really looking to get more than that and get paid for what I'm worth."
So to help him during his final year and when he enters the world of work he's taken on a side hustle which is already bringing in additional funds. From his accommodation at the University of Leeds, Alex runs a blog about Lego. His passion for building Lego means he can use it to earn extra money which helps him now as a student and will top-up his graduate job salary.
He said: "It supports me and allows me to do other things. I was able to go on a holiday this summer which as a student, when money is tight, I might not have been able to do otherwise. It will just help me boost that income since unfortunately it's a struggle to find those good salaries out there."
Working part-time in a marketing job doesn't provide enough money for Natasha Birk who graduated from the University of Bath. She's back living at home with her parents as her salary doesn't allow her to be fully independent and self-sufficient. But the success from her eco-eyelashes business, on the side, means she can get there quicker.
Speaking to Sky News, she said: "When you're doing that job search you find jobs that really appeal to you and the criteria will be really exciting but then you look at the salary and it can be a bit deflating. You have to be realistic though and think how would I actually be able to afford to live off that wage, even though it's a job I love doing."
But for businesses, boosting salaries by thousands of pounds is not a viable option, says Alison Edgar MBE, who advises small and big businesses on how to become successful.
She told Sky News: "If you look at the national living wage people are getting out of bed for a lot less than £30,000. A degree may give you an academic background, but it doesn't actually give you the skills that you might need in that role. So if graduates want to have a side hustle to bring in that money, that's great, but they should not be expecting an employer to pay that salary because they'd lose out on margins."
She added: "25% on top of current salaries doesn't fit into the current economics. A lot of graduates are new to the workplace, so they'll need training and understand the business side of things. If they get that increase you'd have to increase the salaries of all the employees that were and that is not going to work for businesses economically. It's not a sustainable model."