Annual report from @BrightNetwork reveals impact of COVID-19 pandemic one year on, as a third of graduates experience cancelled job applications 

Over two-thirds of university graduates educated at state schools do not feel confident about securing a graduate role after leaving university, with a 13% salary expectation difference between private and state educated graduates 

A quarter (23%) of all graduates cited economic factors as the primary obstacle, rising from just 6% during early 2020

Thursday 22nd April 2021, London:  Confidence in securing a graduate role has plummeted amongst young people with a state-educated background since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, further increasing an existing gap with their privately educated peers, according to new research from Bright Network, the leading platform uniting bright, young talent with global employers and fast growth businesses.

Findings from Bright Network’s annual graduate insight report reveal over two-thirds (68%) of university graduates educated at state school do not feel confident about securing a graduate role after leaving university, vs 58% of privately educated graduates – this has increased from 46% of state-educated graduates not feeling confident about securing a graduate role in 2019 vs. 40% of their privately educated peers for the same year.

Insights from What Do Graduates Want 2021/2022? also reveal that the crippling of the economy under coronavirus lockdowns has led to a 5% decrease in expected starting salary amongst state-educated graduates, from £26,200 in 2019 to £24,832 this year. Amongst privately educated graduates, the average expected starting salary is £28,069, a decline of only 1% from £28,400 since 2019.

More broadly, the report offers a deep-dive into the true impact of the past year of pandemic-induced lockdowns on recent graduates and university students, in which a third (32%) of graduates have seen jobs and applications withdrawn due to the pandemic impact on the economy.

For the first time since Bright Network has conducted its annual study, economic factors is the number one barrier to pursuing the right career path – with a quarter (23%) of all graduates citing economic factors as the primary obstacle, vs just 6% during early 2020. Economic factors have overtaken lack of contacts, competition from other graduates and lack of relevant experience as the biggest barrier.

Despite the challenges posed during the last year, a third (29%) of graduates have been able to participate in internships and the majority (75%) have benefited from work experience of some kind during university. The vast majority (95%) of graduates also look to graduate employers to support them with upskilling during university.

The report also indicates that those with a private education background are significantly more likely to have gained access to critical internship experience that can often lead to highly-paid graduate jobs. A third (35%) of privately educated graduates have participated in internships during university, but only a quarter (23%) of state-educated graduates.

The report reveals that, in the wake of the economic turmoil created by the global pandemic, graduates increasingly view coding as a route into a secure and well paid career.  For the first time, coding has become the top skill that graduates are looking to learn before heading into the workplace, with double the number of graduates saying they most need to know about coding before entering the world of work - increasing from just 1 in 10 (10%) last year to 1 in 5 (20%) this year.

Commercial awareness is the second most, sought after skill, with 1 in 7 graduates keen to gain more exposure to the business world, something which has been more difficult due to the pandemic. The data revealed that 77% of graduates feel they’ve struggled to connect with employers over the last year.

Despite many employers reducing their office spaces – often permanently – in the last year, Bright Network’s report also shows that graduates are keen to get into the office and take full advantage of informal and social learning opportunities that are difficult to access when working remotely, with only 6% of graduates preferring a fully remote role once in their first job.

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

 “This year’s report reveals that the economic impact of the pandemic has exacerbated inequalities around career opportunities for young people, and it must be a priority for employers to address these issues in the year ahead.”

“Despite this, we know that graduates remain cautious but focused on securing a good graduate job, and are always looking for the opportunities to gain the practical skills they need to secure a job after university. The report reinforces the importance of our organisation working closely with employers and universities to ensure all graduates have the opportunity to learn new skills during university, and in their first career role.”

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 2021/2022? Building a New Tomorrow is the sixth 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. 

Methodology: Survey conducted by Bright Network between 8th January and 2nd February 2021 among 15,185 Bright Network members.

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