Sector spotlight: health and social work

Jodie Elwis

Category: Staff

25 June 2020

Many industries have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, including health and social work. What's the outlook for students and graduates who are hoping to start a career in these sectors?

This week we are going to have a closer look at some of the areas that have not been impacted as heavily in context of recruitment.

Before then, here is a quick summary of what we have seen so far (see previous two posts for details).

  • Analysis of job vacancies showed an immediate negative impact of COVID-19 on the labour market.
  • Government furlough figures show the accommodation and food service and the construction industries needed to use this scheme the most.
  • On 22 June, the Government announced new measures to help boost the construction industry; these included planning permission extensions, flexible working, faster planning appeal process, and large loan possibilities.
  • Student and graduate employers who have indicated their recruitment plans to the Institute of Student Employers showed that they plan to reduce graduate recruitment for the next year, but not as severely as placements or non-graduate recruits.
  • Education leavers likely to be hit the hardest as they look to enter the jobs market, but graduates to fare the best among this group.
  • Most industries and occupations that have been able to adjust operations to working from home tend to be more heavily graduate-level jobs.

Summary from this week

  • Job vacancy postings show health, IT, education and social work dominate the jobs boards.
  • Even though latest data from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation’s (REC) Job Recovery Tracker shows a percentage decline from end of May, number of unique vacancies are still significantly higher than other occupations.
  • As with before COVID-19, nurses and social workers are likely to be able to find employment as they enter the graduate labour market, however the reality of these roles may now look different to previous expectations.

Amid an absence of vacancies in comparison to last year’s figures, there are certain sectors that are dominating over half the jobs board: health, IT, education, and social work. With comparisons to last year, health and social care have mainly held up in vacancy count (as may be expected) whereas IT and education are still lower than usual (IES, 7 June). This post focuses on the impact on health and social work.

Health and social work

As previous graduate data has shown and now the newly released Graduate Outcomes analysis confirms, a very high proportion of those who study medicine, allied health and social work find themselves in employment following finishing their course. With the nature of the current crises, you will not be surprised to see that there is still demand for recruiting into some of these roles, particularly in nursing. With most roles requiring graduate knowledge and training, for some this will bring reassurance for their future plans. The downside for the general graduate labour market is, of course, that purely being a graduate, no matter how wonderfully skilled, will not qualify you for these roles without re-training.

Care worker roles, which are not heavily made up of graduate level jobs, are in similar high demand, as they would have been pre-COVID-19. Even though specific undergraduate qualifications are not required, the lack of requirement for a degree and level of pay may not be appealing to graduates who look to gain return on investment from their study.

Job roles within these sectors are relatively plenty, but the jobs will still have been impacted by the pandemic. Therefore, graduates may find that the roles or branch of work they aimed for are now different to their expectations. Reported experience from our advisers who work with local trusts and employers, as well as through keeping in touch with students, indicate that nurses have been needed to help fill demand in intensive care, pulling staff away from their usual specialised areas. Community staff particularly would have seen a shift in the way they work; needing to change to phone calling appointments rather than the more traditional community work that an in-person presence is important for. The Royal College of Nursing takes a more positive spin citing that the forced change has helped in managing caseloads and re-focusing on priority patients.

Changing to telecommunications has been reported by some of our local connections as positive in the world of social work in some ways. The use of technology over in-person visits has allowed for shorter but more frequent communication, meaning less pressure to cover a multitude of things within one appointment, and the less formal interaction of a video call has been perceived as lowering visible signs of anxiety. This way of working has also meant that we have seen social work placements able to still be offered and taken up online.

A survey by Community Care of over 400 social workers showed that professionals felt their ability to carry out their statutory work was reduced by 40%. One of the reasons they attributed this to was rising demand for services. Even though our local anecdotes from professionals may highlight the more positive side of change in their work, this survey also found some practitioners who felt the lack of contact with clients had undermined their relationship-based practice.

The table below from the REC was published in their latest fortnightly release from their Jobs Recovery Tracker that they produce in partnership with Emsi.

The table has been amended to highlight the relevant areas mentioned in this post (social work was not included) and to show the difference in unique weekly job postings and the percentage changes. The occupations that fall within health, IT and education show a relatively small decline from the comparative week at the end of May – however the number of unique postings is still significantly higher than the other areas shown in the table where a weekly increase can be seen. The declines in health may be due to declining COVID-19 cases and pressure on NHS and care homes, whereas the decline in education may be due to the Government’s announcement that primary schools would not be required to fully open before the next school year begins.

Produced by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, 7 June 2020

Occupation Unique active job positionings 1-7 June Change in active job positionings 25-31 May to 1-7 June
Large goods vehicle drivers 2,348 +2.7%
Programmers and software development professionals 41,055 -2.0%
Security guards and related occupations 7,642 +3.9%
Primary teaching education professionals  32,907 +6.0%
Care workers and home carers 43,155 -2.8%
Nurses 58,694 -2.7%
Hairdressers and barbers 1,137 +1.9%




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