Coronavirus / Job market

COVID and the graduate labour market- who should you listen to?

You may be forgiven for feeling an overwhelming sense of doom and despondency about the labour market at present. There is no denying there are challenges at present – whether you are graduating this summer, you are a recent graduate still looking for work or if you are penultimate student hoping to secure an internship this summer.

However, I would encourage you all to put on your ‘research skills’ hat (something Warwick equips you with very well). Apply that same set of skills in order to undertake your own analysis of the graduate labour market.

Useful questions to ask yourself when undertaking your research

Is the information from a trustworthy and credible source?

  • What is the motivation of the person/organisation sharing the information?
  • How up to date is the information?

Here are some examples of graduate labour market information from trustworthy sources we rely on.

The annual report from High Fliers, which reflects  graduate recruitment by the Times Top 100 largest graduate recruiters. Key highlights taken from the latest report published in January 2021:

  • Employers cut their graduate recruitment by 15.1% in 2020.
  •  Employers recruited 3,700 fewer graduates in 2020 than had been expected at the beginning of the year – the biggest mid-year cut in graduate vacancies since 2008, the start of the global financial crisis and recession.
  • The number of graduates recruited was 12.3% lower than in 2019, the largest annual fall in graduate recruitment at the UK’s leading employers for eleven years.
  • Graduate recruitment fell in thirteen out of fifteen of the most sought-after industries and business sectors, including accounting & professional services firms, engineering & industrial companies, and public sector employers. 
  • Fifty-seven of the country’s one hundred leading employers recruited fewer graduates than in 2019 or hired no graduates at all in 2020.
  • The Coronavirus pandemic has forced employers to switch almost all of their graduate recruitment promotions online this year, using a range of university-run virtual events, online presentations, social media, online advertising, email services, and advertising in graduate directories – with varying degrees of success.
  • On average, the country’s top employers have received 41% more graduate job applications so far, compared with the equivalent period in the 2019-2020 recruitment round.
  • Half the UK’s leading employers are hoping to be able to deliver in-person vacation work placements and internships this summer, but spring taster programmes for first year students are expected to take place online.

High Fliers have also produce a series of  Youtube videos outlining the experiences of six recent graduates during the pandemic.

While High Fliers represents the largest recruiters they do only represent a small segment graduate recruiters. Many Warwick graduates will go on to work for a much more diverse range of companies and sectors.

  • The ISE represents a wider range of graduate recruiters and routinely features labour market updates in the media so worth noting their messages.
  • At a recent Student Attraction meeting of ISE graduate recruiters many members stated they were not looking to return to face to face meetings or working until early 2022.
  • Assessment centres will remain virtual for the time being unless job roles require access to a site.
  • In their 2020 annual recruitment report the ISE recorded a 12% reduction in graduate recruitment of their 179 members and a reduction in Internship offers. However student recruitment has declined rather than collapsed. It’s too early to be clear whether the recession will lead to further reductions. Correspondingly application numbers have increased.
  • Finally, Charlie Ball, labour market expert, provides fortnightly updates through Luminate Prospects where you can follow both graduate and broader labour market latest news. Charlie draws on a range of robust data sources for his reports. Areas highlighted in his 27th January 2021 report show growth in e- commerce, healthcare support staff, digital content freelancers, construction, creative freelancers. Although the creative sector is struggling, the agility of some freelancers has created opportunities.

So – what encouraging counterpoint can I offer?

Whilst the pandemic has created a great deal of uncertainty in the labour market and the situation changes and continues to change as a result of the pattern of the pandemic and corresponding lockdowns, there are some winners as well as losers. Supermarkets have done well and Amazon has expanded substantially in order to keep pace with demand. Logistics overall is holding up well. So too are Health and Social care.

The capacity to work remotely is clearly not going to change any time soon. It’s likely many companies may look to home working as an approach that will continue beyond the pandemic- or where  a blend of home working and office working may be agreed. The implications could be very positive for those wanting to work for a large firm but not wanting pay extortionate sums to live and commute to the capital in particular.

Recession is often a time for the economy to reinvent itself with entrepreneurs launching successful businesses; post -2009 for example, saw the emergence of Slack, Pinterest, Uber, What’s App, Nest and Cloudera. Pay attention to what’s changing as this will give some indication of opportunities. During the pandemic online learning has grown exponentially; deliveries, streaming, remote working, telemedicine, the environment and Big Data for example.

Be alert therefore, and open to opportunities you may not have previously considered as new jobs emerge and change the shape of the economy and our futures.

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