From education to employment

Nine in ten students and graduates are worried about the impacts the cost of living will have on their future career

Person sat at their laptop and looking concerned at printed receipts

New research highlights the challenges and worries facing young people as they begin to step into the world of work during a cost of living crisis.

As well as affecting their bank balances, financial concerns are already having an impact on the future career aspirations and expectations of university students and recent graduates.

Graduate career websites and GradTouch, part of the Careerpass Network, surveyed 1,013 students and graduates between August 31st – September 12th 2022 to understand how the current cost of living crisis is impacting their lives and career prospects.

Almost nine in ten (88%) of those surveyed believe that their future careers will be impacted by the current cost of living. It also showed that one in twenty (5%) are already using food banks, with a quarter (24%) expecting to use them in the near future.

The pressures on personal living costs have already begun to bite when it comes to young people relocating for work. 46% of respondents said that the cost of living is too high for them to move to their preferred location, with 40% revealing that the cost of commuting is also too high for them to travel to where they would like to work.

Certain industries could see a drop in demand from young job-seekers, with 63% of respondents agreeing that their choices have been impacted by the current economic situation. 45% said the salaries were too low in their preferred sectors, while sectors typically known for high graduate salaries are attracting more interest from recent graduation classes.

In what could be a sign that young people are having to put finances ahead of their passions when it comes to future career prospects, the research discovered when asked what industry they now wish to work in compared to their original desired field, accounting and finance, which is typically known for offering higher graduate salaries, saw a 57% increase, whilst creative and design saw a 30% decrease.

To compensate for the increased cost of living, recent graduates are expecting higher salaries than previously. Eight in ten respondents have said their salary expectations have changed due to the high costs of living, with over half (51%) expecting over £25,000 upon graduation, compared to four in ten (42%) when asked about their previous salary expectations. 

Graduates are asking for more support from future employers, with over half (53%) saying they would most like a contribution to travel and commuting to work. Other support graduates would like includes salary advance schemes (42%), sign-on bonuses (34%), and help in securing accommodation (33%). Over a quarter (28%) also said that they want to see well-being support from their future employers, showing they need understanding from employers during challenging times.

Not only were respondents asked about the concerns of where they want to work and the sector they want to work in, they were also asked about how they want to work. 43% shared that they would like a hybrid approach to work, with time shared between working in an office and remotely at home. A reason why graduates are looking for hybrid ways of working could be that whilst it offers flexibility for remote working, 47% of those surveyed are either already back and living with family or intend to do so soon, and a further 22% have agreed they may need to consider this. All this signals that employers may have to think about the impacts of commuting costs, rising energy costs and a sufficient working from home setup when hiring graduate talent.

The cost of living is impacting everyone, but it is clear university students and recent graduates are burdened with worry and barriers at a crucial time in their lives and for their future careers. If living costs continue to rise, the UK should be braced for a very different graduate employment landscape in the near future.

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