A leading Sheffield recruitment firm has warned students to choose their degree carefully after a national report revealed a quarter of employers are struggling to find good graduates to fill job vacancies.

Louisa Harrison-Walker, director of recruitment company Benchmark, says young people who opt for university need to seriously think about whether their degree is value for money and choose sectors which have skill shortages.

Her comments come after the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) reported a 17 per cent increase in the number of graduate vacancies with UK employers this year – but warned 23 per cent of employers had unfilled vacancies at the end of 2013.

With A level results due on August 14, Louisa said: “My advice to anyone considering university is to think very carefully about which degree to choose. Identify skill shortages so your education makes you highly employable. Never expect a degree to pave the way entirely – you must demonstrate a good work ethic because there’s a lot of competition out there.

“It’s interesting that many employers still had unfilled vacancies as they were unable to find the skills sets they needed. Does this highlight the emergence of a big disparity between the universities’ output and the employers’ required input?”

The AGR report shows the banking and financial services industries have the largest predicted increase of graduate jobs while the fast-moving consumer goods and energy, water and utility sectors anticipate a decrease in vacancies.

Graduate starting salaries are also set to improve, rising £500 from last year to £27,000. Graduate investment bank or fund managers can expect the largest rewards, with starting salaries of £43,500.

But the report warns the job market isn’t easy: “There are still unfilled graduate vacancies as employers are not always able to find the right people, with the right knowledge, skills and attitudes, for the job. Graduates must ensure they really do their research, target their applications and ensure their CVs do them justice if they want to be in with a good chance of securing a place on a graduate scheme following university.”

Louisa advises: “In my experience, employers value candidates with a strong work ethic, a willingness to take instruction, an ability to bounce back from mistakes and a positive attitude.

“Work on the ‘soft’ skills too. Part time jobs through college and university are fantastic experience and definitely look good on your CV. Practise interviews as they can be standard for entry at some universities.”