What is influencing student career decisions right now?

Jul 10, 2023 | Attraction & marketing, Home Featured, Research

The cost-of-living crisis is having a big influence on student decisions, explains Chris Rea from Prospects at Jisc.

The last few years have seen some major wider world events influence everything from our way of living to working lives. It’s perhaps no surprise that these events have also had an impact on student and graduate career plans and choices.

Prospects at Jisc, home of the UK’s biggest and busiest graduate careers website, has been collecting data since 2021 for its Early Careers Survey, so has a good idea of how attitudes and behaviours are shifting.

The survey of around 5,000 students and graduates includes 22% who said their day-to-day activities are limited due to a disability or health condition and 21% who are neurodiverse. Some of the findings were explained to delegates at this year’s ISE Student Recruitment Conference. Here we share some of the highlights.


Impact of cost-of-living crisis on careers

One of the interesting things this year has been how big an impact the cost-of-living crisis has had.

The effect of long periods of lockdown meant mental health and motivation have been the biggest challenges for young people over the last couple of years, but this year everything changed.

While these issues haven’t gone away, the cost-of-living crisis means money worries overtook everything else. Balancing commitments and mental health followed respectively.

Students and graduates also continue to struggle with motivation, whether that be around their studies or job hunting. Nearly half of graduates said that they faced motivation challenges and 62% of those who are neurodiverse said this was the case.

One respondent commented: “It’s made me less motivated to climb the career ladder as I think what is the point when everyone is struggling financially, mentally and physically. So much sickness at the moment makes me wonder if high stress careers are all they’re cracked up to be.”

Read advice on ways employers can build student motivation.


Graduates on the move

Money worries are the dominant influence over career planning. More students and graduates are changing career plans – half of those surveyed, compared to the quarter we saw switching things during the lockdown period.

More than a third of graduates said they intend to leave their employer this year with 36% of these wanting to advance their career.

We’ve also heard students looking at careers that pay more money. Graduates quitting jobs to earn a higher wage (17%) or starting up ‘side hustles’ to boost their income. Students who were considering further study have been deterred due to the cost. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next year.


Rise of apprenticeships

Last year’s survey showed many students favouring university due to apprenticeship stigma.

This year we found slightly more college/sixth forms students were planning to do an apprenticeship, 14% compared to 12% in 2022.

However, more than a third said they had decided against this route because apprenticeships weren’t available in their career path.

A Success at School survey found 48% of parents weren’t aware of degree apprenticeships. There is clearly more to be done to raise awareness of the broad range of apprenticeships available.


You may also be interested in:

Do young people like hybrid and remote work?

3 ways to build a deeper graduate talent pool

What do young people want for their future careers?

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