23rd August. 2023

Covid Graduates Face Employment Challenges

The impact of the pandemic on university graduates has left many feeling ill-prepared for the job market. Students have been left questioning the effectiveness of university education as graduates leave with a sense of unpreparedness. 

According to a  2020 Prospects survey on the effects of the pandemic on graduate recruitment,  the majority of graduates felt negatively about their job prospects. Out of 1,202 survey respondents: 

  • 26.1% lost their work placement/internship;
  • 29.2% lost their job; and 
  • 28.2% had their job offer deferred or cancelled. 

These sentiments are strengthened by another recent report, which points to a steep decline in available positions in the past two years. The number of positions available and marked suitable for graduates is about 40% below what it was five years ago. According to one of the UK’s largest employment platforms Reed Recruitment, this is also “evidence of the mismatch between the near record vacancies and the skills of the workers available”.

Kate Shoesmith, deputy chief executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation has said the following: “…There is a general sentiment that new entrants to the jobs market don’t have the same levels of work experience or social interactions in a workplace. They don’t have the same level of understanding of the workplace as graduates pre-Covid.” This, the report continues, is because students did not have the same opportunities as pre-pandemic students – for example, in-person internships and shadowing opportunities which could not be offered due to lockdown restrictions. 

In addition to the slump in graduate vacancies, wages are also suffering. Reed Recruitment reported that “real wages have been squeezed across all sectors, and graduates are no exception. The impact of inflation will be felt more acutely by people in lower paid roles — often entry level.” 

Kingston University graduate Reianna told the Student Group Claim that she does not feel confident identifying as a product and furniture design graduate because she does not “have the technical ability that you would expect from a graduate of this discipline… The workshops were closed for over a year and the teaching was way below expected standards for a practical degree – I am severely lacking in my knowledge and skillset for my discipline… I’ve got the degree on paper but nothing to show for it – aside from thousands in student debt.” 

Ellalute, who studied Graphic Design at Brighton University, echoed those sentiments, telling the Student Group Claim she feels her cohort “graduated into the toughest job market for a long time, and many graduates are struggling to find any form of work.” According to Ellalute, students in such creative courses had to pay for equipment on top of tuition and accommodation such as paint, inks and printing materials. Furthermore, “As my course is creative, we also put on a Graduate Exhibition Show which is funded entirely by the university, as well as a student funded London Show, both of which had to be cancelled. … The show is very important in providing us with industry exposure and can in some cases earn us jobs and work from new clients. This is crucial experience when transitioning from being a student into a working professional in our field…  I strongly believe students should be granted some form of compensation for this loss of experience, new skills, extra expense and debt.”.

Students who had hoped to secure employment after graduation in order to pay back Student Loans are likely to find this frustrating, worrying and disappointing. Perhaps receiving some form of compensation from universities might soften the blow.