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Graduate confidence low as ONS stats show young people hardest hit by pandemic joblessness

New research from the Bright Network’s quarterly Talent Tracker has found low confidence among students and graduates about career prospects in 2021.

This comes as the recent Office for National Statistics (ONS) employment figures show that the 16-24 age bracket has been hit hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic in terms of work.

Over 60% of the total fall in employment in the last quarter was among this age group, particularly as they are 2.5 times more likely to work in the industry sectors worst impacted by lockdowns.

According to the Bright Network survey, 65% of students are not confident about securing a graduate role after university. 56% are worried about the scarcity of jobs due to cuts at big companies, and more than a third (37%) of graduates said the pandemic changed their mind about the career paths they wanted to pursue.

One in five (21%) students said that the arrival of a potential vaccine has increased their confidence in finding a graduate role, and 60% of the UK students were considering further postgraduate study as a means of strengthening their competitiveness in the graduate market.

The Covid-19 pandemic has decreased graduate salary expectations by £1,620 since the start of the year, falling from £27,600 in January to £25,980 now.

Students’ persistent concerns about fewer employment prospects, despite the great news about the vaccine roll-out, tell us that the challenges students face to secure the right graduate job will persist beyond the pandemic

– James Uffindell

The data suggests that students with socio-economic advantages are much better placed to secure a graduate role than their disadvantaged peers, with a September Bright Network study finding that those educated at private school were 21% more likely to say they had the right network around them to aid their job search.

Despite these challenges, the study finds that undergraduates are investing more in their own skills to boost their attractiveness in the jobs market: 90% are keen for graduate employers to support the student population with upskilling during university, and over a third (37%) are more interested in advice about how they can upskill for their future career than whether firms are hiring right now (27%).

James Uffindell, founder & CEO of Bright Network, said: “Our Talent Tracker continues to highlight the real and long-lasting impacts the pandemic will have on the UK’s young people looking to begin their careers.

“Students’ persistent concerns about fewer employment prospects, despite the great news about the vaccine roll-out, tell us that the challenges students face to secure the right graduate job will persist beyond the pandemic – we know that the economy won’t bounce back immediately.

“Our study highlights that the impacts are not felt evenly across groups, and it is essential we work with universities and employers to ensure everyone has equal opportunity when it comes to job opportunities, and that we provide the support students are telling us they are seeking from employers right now.

“It’s imperative that as we look ahead to 2021 and a recovery from the pandemic, we ensure the next generation are given the best skills training and opportunities to help build back the economy we need.”

The survey was conducted between 17 and 19 November among 1,516 Bright Network members.

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