Stephen Isherwood, ISE joint-CEO, makes three predictions for 2024.
Before starting this piece, I looked back at what I wrote this time last year: vacancy numbers were positive but uncertain, pressure on students was increasing and we were trying to work out what policies a Sunak government would pursue.
I did consider re-writing last year’s comments into AI as a shortcut. But that would be cheating. Here’s what I think we’ll all be working through in 2024.
Politics will be unavoidable
In case you hadn’t noticed there is an election coming up, most probably in the autumn. Which means that if you are not interested in politics, turn off the news now and don’t turn it back on again until 2025.
When stacked up against other issues – a sluggish economy, an NHS in perpetual crisis, crumbling schools – student employment and the student experience is unlikely to feature high on manifesto pledges.
But some issues that do affect us could become what politicos call wedge issues, issues that drive a wedge between party positions and mobilise core voters.
Could cost of living, student wellbeing and therefore tuition fees become an issue? It did in 2015 when labour pledged to drop tuition fees to £6,000. Will the immigration debate lead to tighter regulations on international student and employment visas? Will university bashing continue prompting more reforms to vocational education and the apprenticeship levy?
Job market remains uncertain
Whilst politicians argue, the more immediate, day-to-day pressures for ISE members will be the jobs market.
Like 2023, the student jobs market is holding up. But whilst overall student hiring is expected to increase by 5% this year, individual sectors and individual employers, specific business units, may cut back on hiring. This makes the market difficult to predict.
Public sector, professional services roles with qualifications attached, and apprentice vacancies tend not to hold firm when the economy is struggling. More cyclical business sectors such as consulting, retail and construction may see vacancy cuts.
But our advice to students will likely continue: try to avoid negative headlines, the student job market is always competitive, most employer student hiring will continue as planned, stay focused.
AI in recruitment matures
AI had a rapid impact last year. While employer recruitment systems take time to develop and validate, our annual ISE Student Recruitment Survey reported that already nearly a third of employers are now using AI as part of their hiring.
As student use of AI becomes better understood, as employers implement new processes, advice on how to make the best use of AI in recruitment will clarify and practice should become more consistent.
AI will not just transform how students apply to jobs and are assessed by employers, we could see AI reshape how many recruiter and career professionals operate. Will assessment centres incorporate AI based exercises? Will AI transcribe interview notes and provide candidate feedback? Will AI write job profiles
Many employers implement new selection approaches and tools at the start of a recruitment season, so expect a widespread roll-out of new assessment processes this coming autumn.
ISE focus on policy
Events will no doubt create new opportunities and challenges through the year. Here at the ISE we’ve already started consulting on our manifesto.
We’ll put forward our ideas for policy reform that better enables employers to hire the early career talent their organisations require, creates improved pathways through education and into work, and ensures the UK invests fully in education.
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