Only a third of this year’s graduates are confident they will secure a graduate job when they leave university, according to a survey by Bright Network.
Its annual graduate insight report found that four out of five students hoping to graduate this year are worried that coronavirus will affect their university grades, while 83% feel under increased pressure because of the uncertainty created by the pandemic.
Almost half (49%) of graduates were confident about securing a role before the pandemic struck, the company found. Almost two-thirds (63%) said that companies had put applications on pause or withdrawn them since the virus struck.
That said, many graduates have taken up voluntary work or applied for roles in the NHS, supermarkets or delivery services to support those in need during the pandemic. Sixty-four percent of graduates were taking proactive steps to do this, Bright Network found.
James Uffindell, founder & CEO of the company, which links young candidates with potential employers, said: “In these uncertain times, graduates need all the help they can get to understand what the opportunities are, and how best to find them.
“It’s incumbent on universities, employers and services like ours to step up our support to ensure graduates are getting into the right careers – helping to rebuild an economy that will have been severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.”
Bright Network’s research also found that just over a third of graduates would prioritise roles that offered flexible working, while 11% were looking for other wellbeing benefits such as subsidised gym membership.
However, the pandemic could highlight issues of social mobility: State school-educated students feel less prepared to enter the world of work, it found – 49% of privately educated students felt prepared compared with 42% of state-educated people.
Thirty percent of state school students said they felt their background had hindered their job prospects, and their annual salary expectations in five years’ time were £8,000 less than for those who were privately educated.
The research found that there is also less of a desire to work in London than in previous years – only a third of graduates wanted to work in the capital, versus 63% in 2019.
Twelve percent of graduates surveyed said they wanted to start their own businesses, compared to 7% last year.
Uffindell added: “Our research finds graduates want to work flexibly, and we fully expect the COVID-19 pandemic may accelerate a long-term shift towards flexible working which existed before the pandemic took hold.
“The report does indicate that state school and private school-educated graduates will experience this pandemic, and the likely economic downturn that follows, quite differently. I call for employers and universities to ensure the same opportunities are available to all students, regardless of education, and that students from all backgrounds know about them.”
“Overall, this year’s research has highlighted a real change in mentality about the future workforce. There’s no doubt today’s graduates face a challenging time ahead.”