Getting up to speed: the graduate labour market in the face of COVID-19

Jodie Elwis

Category: Staff

20 May 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has affected every area of our lives, including the jobs market and graduate opportunities. Here, Jodie Elwis considers the outlook for universities and their students.

Gov.uk recently released the latest statistics for the Graduate Labour Market which show the condition of the market in England for graduates and postgraduates compared to non-graduates for 2019. (Spoiler: on average your salary is better off with a degree than without.)

So now seems like a good time to start our blog on the graduate labour market, as 2020 is looking significantly different from any other year we’ve experienced, and you wonder what statistics will be reflecting back on this time next year.

Analysis on this subject is quick to change and a lot is still open for speculation of what this will mean in the long term. This blog will aim to bring you subject-specific insights for our region as the weeks go on.

For now, let’s get up to speed with the current state of the student and graduate labour market.

  • In the general labour market, job postings have declined dramatically in comparison to this time last year (Indeed.com reports a 54% difference).
  • Even though it sees a dramatic decline of 49%, the East of England recently become the region with the slowest decline in job postings, overtaking London for this title.
  • Upon entering lockdown the majority of firms showed a reassuring hesitancy to make any sudden changes to their graduate recruitment plans (Institute of Student Employers, ISE). ISE found that 27% were looking to reduce graduate recruitment (though most not substantially) and it was the first sign that placements and internships would be hit the hardest with 31% already planning on reducing recruitment within this area.
  • A more recent ISE survey now shows a clearer picture amidst ongoing uncertainty. The takeaway is that the student/graduate labour market is down but not out. Entry-level recruitment is due to be cut on average by about 23% this year; 14% reported to have reneged on a job offer, with another 14% still considering needing to do this. The story continues that graduates will be hit less than placement students and apprentices with a 12% planned reduction in comparison to the 40% and 32% respectively.
  • Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are more focused on survival at this point than some larger firms need to be.
  • From students' perspective, of 1,202 final year students surveyed nationally 26% had lost their internship, 29% had lost their job and 28% had their job offer deferred or cancelled (Prospects).

Just like the general labour market, the short- to medium-term picture is not pretty, however we must take encouragement where it is not all doom and gloom. Even though education leavers are set to be hit hard, looking to entering the labour market at such a difficult time, all data so far suggests that graduates are less likely to be impacted as heavily as those with lower qualifications (Resolution Foundation). The market has not stopped, it still exists and so there are opportunities for our students to look and prepare for. Where they have been asked, many employers have indicated a desire to stay in close contact with universities.

In future blogs, I'll dissect more of the detail of some of the sources used here as well as including newer analysis when released.




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