Covid-19: How ISE suppliers are supporting our industry

Apr 28, 2020 | Sector & policy

ISE’s Chief Research Officer, Tristram Hooley, explores how those who supply student recruiters and developers are responding to meet industry demands in light of coronavirus.

While most ISE members are employers, we also draw members from education and from the key organisations who link up education and employment and make the student labour market work. We refer to these intermediary organisations as ‘suppliers’ and their experience and expertise is critical to the ISE community.

At the start of April we conducted a survey of ISE’s supplier members and asked how they were experiencing the crisis and what services they could offer to support other ISE members to effectively deal with the crisis. We have just published a short report setting out the findings of this research alongside a directory of services that suppliers provide. Here are key insights:

Services offered

ISE’s supplier members offer a wide range of services designed to support employers and education providers to recruit, select and develop entry-level talent. Almost all (98%) of the respondents offer services to employers, but it is also common to offer services to universities (41%) and schools (22%).

In the context of Covid-19 there was a strong pattern that suppliers were seeking to offer services and support to allow employers and educational providers to move various aspects of their services online.

This included various aspects of online recruitment (offered by 50%) including both attraction and selection processes. It also included support for educational providers to move their careers provision online (21%) and specific brokerage services (19%) designed to bring educators and employers closer together.

Other suppliers emphasised the support that they could provide in moving previously face-to-face events online (15%) or in running development programmes (13%) and internships (6%) online.

In addition to the strategy of shifting existing face-to-face activities online, a quarter of suppliers (25%) were also offering consultancy to support organisations in managing their provision in the light of the crisis.

Some emphasised the fact that during this period organisations are more likely to face capacity issues due to illness and highlighted the support that they could provide (15%).
Finally, a minority of suppliers (4%) noted that firms would be likely to experience reputational brand challenges during this period and offered additional support with branding.

The majority (52%) of suppliers reported that since the beginning of the lockdown they had seen a decrease in demand for their services. Conversely 21% have seen an increase in demand. While the overall picture is concerning, it is also clear that the crisis is creating opportunities for some.

Labour market insights

Suppliers were asked to indicate whether they thought that the Covid-19 crisis would be likely to lead to an increase or decrease in the numbers of entry-level hires that they thought employers would recruit.

In general, suppliers are fairly pessimistic about numbers across the student recruitment market.

Most expect to see declines in the numbers of graduates (81% of respondents), non-graduates (71%) and interns and placement students (85%). But, the good news is that it is only in relation to interns and placement students where the plurality (47%) believe that these opportunities will reduce substantially. For graduates and non-graduate hires, the majority of suppliers expect to see a slight decrease in numbers rather than a substantial cut.

The perspective offered by suppliers is useful because they have a wide engagement with multiple employers. While they are not reporting on their own hiring numbers, they are in a good position to understand how the market is responding to the crisis.

Respondents recognised that COVID-19 was having both a substantial short-term impact, but also had the potential to underpin longer term changes. While the issues associated with Covid-19 are becoming clearer, there is still some way to go before organisations can fully plan their response.

Many suppliers anticipated that Covid-19 would lead to some permanent changes in the way in which the student labour market works. Some were hopeful that this would ultimately lead to positive change with better use of digital technologies and a stronger focus on staff wellbeing.

Others were less positive. Viewing the crisis as something that was disrupting normal business in an unhelpful way. These suppliers highlighted the negative impacts that it is having on the availability of work experience and other opportunities for young people. Some raised concerns about recession, with one saying that ‘the impact on this student cohort could be worse than the 2008 crash’. They also highlighted the challenges that employers would face in maintaining their long-term talent pipeline following the disruption of this period.

As one supplier pithily put it, ‘Bit annoying isn’t it?’

Read Responding to COVID-19: The experience of suppliers.

Access our directory of services that ISE supplier members provide.

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