Most of the UK’s top graduate recruiters either stabilised or increased their hiring this year, according to the Institute of Student Employers.
Almost half (48%) of the 135 recruiters it surveyed are recruiting the same number of graduates as last year and 36% are hiring more. One in 10 will increase their graduate intake by 10% or more.
Last year, 44% of graduate recruiters scaled down their hiring plans, and in 2021 this figure is just 16%, according to the ISE. The sectors most likely to reduce their hiring plans this year were FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) and retail, where 38% of employers are cutting back on graduate recruitment.
As well as increasing graduate recruitment, employers are also hiring more school leavers. Almost a third (31%) said they would increase recruitment of school leavers compared with last year, while 57% will hire the same number. Eleven percent are cutting recruitment, a 44% decrease in employers shrinking their hiring plans last year.
When it comes to work experience opportunities, more than half (56%) of employers surveyed by ISE said they would offer the same number of internships as last year, while 24% said they would hire more interns. A fifth cut their internship opportunities this year, compared to 38% in 2020.
The majority of employers have adapted their approach to recruitment to accommodate pandemic restrictions, the ISE reported. Most said they would take a blended approach rather than doing all interviews, assessment centres and work experience online or face-to-face.
Although many expressed confidence that their organisation had survived the worst of the pandemic, there was caution about future opportunities for young people.
Stephen Isherwood, ISE chief executive, said: “Employers are optimistic that we’re reaching the end of the pandemic, but not that the economic crisis is over. However, early indicators show that the market is on the upturn and there will be more employment opportunities for young people this year.
“While the jobs market remains tough, students need to keep working on their skills and engaging with employers.”
Isherwood said that student recruitment and development would continue to evolve rather than simply returning to a fully in-person process.
He added: “Two years ago the majority of how we recruited and developed young people was largely in person and nobody is talking about going back to this.
“The crisis has forced more employers to adopt technology and we’re already seeing a more permanent shift to online and blended techniques as they realise the benefits. People are looking for new and different models rather than reverting to what they know.”