UNIVERSITY graduates from Huntingdonshire are unlikely to return to the district because of a lack of high-quality employment opportunities, research has found.

A focus group commissioned by Cambridgeshire County Council also found that teenagers looking for part-time or weekend jobs to help finance their studies find it difficult to get work in the area because adults are being forced to take lower-paid jobs.

The research, which included an eight-person focus group of Huntingdonshire residents as well as a telephone survey of 1,100 people across Cambridgeshire, found that "those returning from university are able to find work only in areas that require no degree".

One participant in the focus group said: "It looks like Huntingdonshire could be great, but it's not developing."

Another said: "I don't think my children will ever come back here. It's the work side of it … there are no opportunities here for them".

Kelly Lock, a member of the opinion research services team that delivered the findings, said: "Overall, Huntingdonshire residents were most concerned about the lack of employment opportunities in their area, primarily because of the experiences of their children.

"The general sense here was that the area could be 'great', but that it is being left behind other districts in terms of development."

The district council and its partners have worked particularly hard to secure one of the Government's Enterprise Zones at Alconbury and this should provide a diversity of high-quality jobs.

Senior economic development officer Ben Hooson said: "A focus of this project is ensuring that there is a legacy in terms of the high-quality jobs. It's important to understand that some of these high-quality jobs will be in the manufacturing sector. The high levels of technology and skills required by this sector in the modern economy are not to be underestimated."

HDC has also invested in other projects aimed at creating jobs. Enterprise centres have been opened in St Ives and St Neots, while a project to bring high-speed broadband to the majority of Huntingdonshire is under way.

Malcolm Sharp, HDC's managing director of communities, partnerships and projects, added: "The council is always working to ensure a strong and sustainable economy and for that we need a number of successful sectors.

"The local economic strategy identifies key growth areas for Huntingdonshire in the creative industries, environmental science and technologies, high value manufacturing and high-tech enterprises.

"These sectors create high-value jobs and demand a highly-skilled workforce - the type of jobs that would be suitable for graduates looking to return home to Huntingdonshire.

"Some of these jobs are already being created by existing businesses that are experts in their field, while the enterprise zone will provide 370 acres of land for new businesses to provide skilled jobs."

HDC is also looking at skills and job opportunities as part of Huntingdonshire Matters - a mass consultation project looking at key areas for the district's future and where problems could appear as well as potential solutions.