From education to employment

Over three-fifths of employers offering work experience placements have had to cancel

Sir Peter Lampl, founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust


Students and employers are worried about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the job market, according to the latest Covid-19 impact brief from the Sutton Trust.

The research, authored by a team at the Sutton Trust including Erica Holt-White and Dr Rebecca Montacute, looks at the immediate effect on young people entering the job market, as well as the long term impact on opportunities available to them.  

  • Almost half of current undergraduates (46%) believe the pandemic has had a negative effect on their chances of finding a job
  • Over three-fifths (61%) of employers offering work experience placements have had to cancel.
  • 39% of graduate employers say they expect to hire fewer graduates or none at all in the next 12 months.

Polling of 895 students by YouthSight found that almost half (46%) said the pandemic has had a negative impact on their ability to find a job. 18% said that they had had work experience placements cancelled or postponed, with 11% having interviews cancelled and 4% having a job offer withdrawn. 

The report also includes polling of 1,005 HR decision makers in British businesses by YouGov, which found that over three-fifths (61%) of employers offering work experience  had cancelled some or all of their placements. Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) were the most likely to have cancelled all internships and work experience placements, with half (49%) doing so, compared to just under a third (29%) of larger employers. 

Almost half of these employers (48%) expect that there will be fewer work experience opportunities in their businesses over the next year and 39% of graduate employers report they are likely to be hiring fewer graduates or none at all in the next 12 months. 

Whilst there are expected to be fewer job opportunities in the aftermath of lockdown, promoting social mobility and fair access remain priorities for employers. Reflecting a recent focus on inequalities in the context of the pandemic, just under a third (29%) of the employers surveyed said social mobility and socio-economic diversity would be more of a priority in the next two years after the pandemic, while just a small proportion (11%) said it would become less of a priority.  

Today’s research comes alongside new guidance for employers, compiled by the Sutton Trust, on how they can champion social mobility in their workplace.

In order to mitigate the impact of Covid-19, the guidance offers a series of recommendations to employers: 

In the short-term, they could move work experience, internships, outreach and recruitment online where possible, ensuring this is accessible to those with limited access to the internet and devices. This provides a unique opportunity to open up such programmes to young people from a wider range of geographical backgrounds. 

In the long-term, they could take into account that missed time from school and the cancellation of exams will have a bigger impact on disadvantaged students. 

peter lampl100x100Sir Peter Lampl, founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: 

“It is crystal clear that young people will bear the brunt for years to come of the massive downturn caused by Covid-19 – and young people from poorer backgrounds will be most affected.  

“As our latest research shows, 49% of students believe the pandemic has affected their chances of getting a job and 40% of employers say they’ll be hiring fewer graduates, or none at all.   

“Employers will need policies in place to allow everyone a fair chance of being recruited to the lower number of graduate jobs available. As internships and work experience placements are declining, employers need to move their programmes online. We need to act now to make sure that all young people have opportunities to enter the labour market.” 

Ronel Lehmann 100x100Ronel Lehmann, Founder and Chief Executive of Finito, the employability experts, said:

“In a week when Downing Street is facing questions from Parliament’s spending watchdog over a surge in public money being spent on opinion polling, now young people who are clearly worried about their employability prospects are having the living daylights scared out of them by The Sutton Trust.

“What we should be all doing in a crisis is to use the difficultyProspective employers are looking for those candidates who can demonstrate their capability, imagination and passion.

“Let us remember that some of Britain’s best known leaders today, started with absolutely nothing, came from disadvantaged backgrounds and rose right to the top. Let’s live through their lens, not the results of an Opinion Poll which is often inaccurate and out of date as soon as it is published.”

Cat Smith 20Jul 100x100Cat Smith MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Young People, said:

“The Government have yet again been too slow to act as youth unemployment continues to skyrocket.

“This report demonstrates that there is a clear gap between what the Government has promised, and the availability of work experience placements being offered by employers.

“The Government must drop its one-size-fits-all approach to youth unemployment and work with local authorities to encourage businesses to take on and train young people.”

Agata Nowakowska, AVP EMEA at Skillsoft, said:

“One of the biggest worries this country faces is the skills challenge, with many industries being severely hit by the pandemic. Work experience represents a crucial skills channel for businesses in the UK and as the talent pipeline begins to stall, the skills gap will continue to widen.

“Organisations will need to think holistically about managing reskilling, upskilling and job transitioning. As the war for talent intensifies due to the post-pandemic circumstances, employee development and talent pooling will become increasingly vital to building a modern workforce that’s adaptable and flexible.

“Addressing and easing workplace role transitions will require new training models and approaches that include on-the-job training and opportunities that support and signpost workers to opportunities to upgrade their skills. Similarly, investing in digital talent platforms that foster fluidity, by matching workers and their skills with new work opportunities within the enterprise will be key.”

Methodology: Figures relating to employers are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,005 HR Decision Makers. Fieldwork was undertaken between 18th – 29th June 2020.  The survey was carried out online. Youthsight surveyed current undergraduate students, with polling taking place online through their student omnibus between the 9th and the 14th of April 2020. The student omnibus is weighted to be representative by Gender, Course Year and University Group (Russell Group, Post 1992 and Pre 1992 institutions). Data here includes 895 home (UK) undergraduate students.

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