Jayne Rowley, executive director of student services at Jisc

The class of 2020 will be less prepared for work and face fewer career opportunities because of the pandemic, reports @Prospects 

New research showed that 29% of final year students have lost their jobs and 26% have lost their internships while 28% have had their graduate job offer deferred or rescinded.

In the survey of nearly 5,000 students and graduates by Prospects, the graduate careers and employability service that is now part of Jisc, job losses and fewer opportunities have left almost half (47%) of finalists now contemplating a postgraduate course and 29% are considering a career change.

Almost two-thirds of final year students now feel negative about their future careers. The majority reported that they are lacking in motivation (83%) and feel disconnected from employers (82%).

Their biggest concerns are that there will be fewer jobs, internships or apprenticeship opportunities in their chosen industries.

Conversely, 18% of university finalists are feeling positive about their career prospects, which was more evident in men (29%) than women (14%). Respondents commonly reported that the pandemic had given them more time to research their options and make plans.

The research also showed that final year students would like more information from employers, particularly around job opportunities or changes to the recruitment process as well as information on working from home.

While research by the Institute of Student Employers reported that the majority of its members have moved to online recruitment methods, 60% of finalists said they were worried about virtual interviews and assessment centres and 72% wanted help and advice.

As executive director of student services at Jisc, Jayne Rowley manages Prospects’ services. She says:

“There is a serious problem brewing for this year’s graduates. This is a critical time for finalists who should be developing their skills in part-time jobs and internships and we need to do everything we can to support them.

“Graduating in this pandemic may have taken many important opportunities away, but getting a career started is not insurmountable.

“We are all adapting to extraordinary circumstances and I think students would be amazed at how many valuable skills they are developing during lockdown, such as organisation, communication and resilience. Students may be supporting vulnerable people, shopping for neighbours, setting up a virtual group or sharing their talents online. My advice to students is to reflect on all of the positive things they are doing and use them to demonstrate their skills to employers.

“There is lots of advice and guidance for students and graduates on our website and don’t forget university careers services, which are doing everything possible to support students and graduates during this difficult time.”

Prospects is supporting students and graduates with careers advice provided in collaboration with the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services.

Survey reveals students' concerns amid coronavirus crisis 

The outbreak of COVID-19 has created a great deal of uncertainty for students and graduates whose study and career plans have been knocked off course - but just how big an impact has the pandemic had?

Prospects conducted a survey gauging the effects of the ongoing pandemic on students and graduates residing in the UK (n = 4,260). Here are some of the key findings.

1. Tough decisions have already been made

With many employers forced to make tough decisions as a result of the lockdown, nearly a third (30%) of respondents surveyed between 31 March and 20 April indicated that they have either lost their jobs (15%) or had their job offer cancelled or deferred (15%) because of the outbreak. Interestingly, EU-domiciled respondents (22%) were more likely than both non-EU (16%) and UK (14%) respondents to report that they had their job offer either cancelled or deferred. Meanwhile, one-fifth of those aged 25 to 34 indicated this as 15% of those aged 18-24 and 25-44 reported the same.

2. A quarter plan to defer entry for a year

Just over a quarter (26%) of respondents plan to defer entry to university until 2021 because of the outbreak while nearly a third (31%) reported that they will now look for online courses instead. Findings also revealed that nearly two-fifths (38%) of those between the ages of 25 and 34 have decided to defer entry to university compared with only a fifth (21%) of those between 18 and 24.

3. Students want information

Students are curious about how things will proceed after regular life resumes with 88% of respondents indicating that they would like information from universities on how teaching will take place if social distancing continues. Nearly four-fifths (79%) indicated that they would like to be able to access a webinar about the course they are interested in and 71% want universities to make information about virtual open days available online – one respondent expressed discomfort about the idea of having to make a decision about a course they would like to enrol on without attending an open day.

4. A sliver of optimism

A quarter of all respondents indicated that they are feeling 'somewhat positive', 'positive' or 'very positive' about their career prospects, with over half of respondents (53%) reporting that they have negative feelings regarding their careers prospects as a result of COVID-19. 

An interesting trend presents itself as negative feelings appear to decline with age. Two thirds (60%) of respondents between the ages of 18 and 24 expressed this compared with just over two fifths (44%) in the 45 to 54 age group, suggesting that older respondents are more confident in their ability to continue on the same trajectory they were on before the coronavirus outbreak. This may be related to the finding that older respondents were able to 'easily work from home' more often than others. 

Findings also suggest that more females (56%) are feeling pessimistic about their career prospects than their male counterparts (47%). Surprisingly, UK (56%) and EU (54%) domiciled respondents were the ones most likely to express negative feelings, compared with just over two-fifths (41%) of non-EU domiciled respondents.

5. Not everyone is feeling pessimistic

Of those who indicated that they were having positive feelings about their career prospects amid the coronavirus pandemic, one in ten stated that they feel this way because they believe that there will be more job vacancies in their industries - men (12%) were slightly more likely than women (8%) to report this.

A large proportion of respondents felt that the pandemic will have no effect on their career prospects as nearly two-fifths (38%) cited this as their reasoning for feeling positive about them.

Respondents domiciled in the UK (39%) were more likely than others to report that the pandemic will have no effect on their career prospects. This was also the most popular response for EU (34%) and non-EU domiciled respondents (31%).

6. Those looking for jobs lack motivation

When asked whether the coronavirus was affecting their search for jobs and placements, a large proportion of respondents reported that they are lacking motivation with three quarters (76%) indicating this - perhaps no surprise given the impact on the labour market. However, fewer men (67%) reported this than women (79%).

7. There is real concern about the availability of jobs

When asked, respondents indicated that the biggest concern for their career prospects was the likelihood that there will be fewer job vacancies in their respective industries once things return back to normal. Similarly, respondents reported that their second most pressing concern is the possibility of there being fewer work placement/internship opportunities available.

Respondents also indicated that they were feeling anxious about the way in which they should approach virtual recruitment, with just over half (51%) of respondents expressing feelings of concern over this.

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