James Uffindell, Founder & CEO of Bright Network

Students report anxiety over future prospects due to #COVID19 pandemic

80% of graduates are worried that COVID-19 will affect their university grades and 63% have seen changes such as applications put on pause or withdrawn, more broadly, data shows significant confidence gap between state school- and private school-educated graduates about future careers.

Bright Network, a leading platform that unites bright, young talent with global employers and fast growth businesses, yesterday (15 Apr) published its annual graduate insight report.

Findings from What Do Graduates Want? Data Insights From the Future Workforce, reveal the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted graduate confidence and prospects for the immediate future.

The report finds that 80% of this year’s graduates are worried that COVID-19 will affect their university grades and 83% feel under more pressure due to uncertainty caused by COVID-19.

There is evidence the market for graduate jobs has slowed significantly since the onset of the crisis, with 63% of students citing changes such as applications put on pause or withdrawn by the company due to COVID-19.

Only a third (33%) of graduates are now confident about securing a grad role, dropping from almost half (49%) before the pandemic struck.

The research finds that many graduates have responded to the crisis by finding ways to support family and communities: 64% of are taking proactive steps to volunteer or work in areas which will support others through the COVID-19 pandemic, such as working for the NHS, or for a supermarket or delivery service.

Furthermore, at a time when employers across the country have been forced to run their businesses and manage teams from home, the report finds graduates are prioritising roles that offer flexible working (34%), over wellbeing-related benefits such as cheaper gym membership (11%) or job progression (10%) to achieve a good work life balance.

The survey of over 5,000 students finds state school-educated graduates may be among those hardest hit by the pandemic, as the report identifies a confidence gap between state school-educated and private school-educated graduates when it comes to expectations about their future careers:

  • State school-educated graduates feel significantly less prepared than their private school counterparts to enter the world of work: half (49%) of private school educated young people feel prepared vs only 2 in 5 (42%) of state school-educated young people.
  • A third (30%) of state school-educated graduates say they have felt their background has hindered them in an application process for work or academic study, vs only 1 in 5 (21%) privately-educated graduates.
  • Those who attended state schools expect a salary in five years’ time that is almost £8,000 less than those who were privately educated.

What Do Graduates Want? finds that across the board, graduates are changing their ideas about what they want out of their first job

  • There is a significant decline in appetite from graduates to go into banking jobs: only 13% of graduates are seeking jobs in banking this year, vs 20% last year – banking and finance has been replaced as the most sought after sector by consulting.
  • There is a growing appetite for entrepreneurship: 12% of graduates now want to start their own businesses after graduating vs 7% in 2019.

James Uffindell, Founder & CEO of Bright Network, commented:

“In these uncertain times, graduates need all the help they can get to understand what the opportunities are, and how best to find them. It’s incumbent on universities, employers and services like ours to step up our support to ensure graduates are getting into the right careers – helping to rebuild an economy that will have been severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.”

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“Our research finds graduates want to work flexibly, and we fully expect the COVID-19 pandemic may accelerate a long-term shift towards flexible working which existed before the pandemic took hold.

“The report does indicate that state school and private school-educated graduates will experience this pandemic, and the likely economic downturn that follows, quite differently . I call for employers and universities to ensure the same opportunities are available to all students, regardless of education, and that students from all backgrounds know about them.

“Overall, this year's research has highlighted a real change in mentality about the future workforce. There’s no doubt today’s graduates face a challenging time ahead, and we look forward to supporting this new generation to fulfil their career aspirations despite these challenges.”

James Gordanifar, Head of Student Recruitment at EY, commented:

“Research like this from Bright Network is key in supporting our overall recruitment strategy, helping us build a strong and diverse graduate talent pool. In uncertain times like these, it’s so important to build confidence amongst the student population and support in developing their skills. The research highlights the importance of this upskilling, but also the continued need to champion inclusivity and opportunity for all, regardless of background. These are key values that EY and Bright Network share, and continue to work towards”

Founded in 2013, James Uffindell wanted to fix a problem. A problem that he saw as one of the biggest in British society: how the brightest graduate talent, regardless of background, connects with the best employment opportunities.

What Do Graduates Want? Data Insights From the Future Workforce is the fifth annual report that Bright Network has released to ensure that employers are meeting the needs of tomorrow’s graduates and how to best create those connections.

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