Research from the Careerpass Network looks at the lasting impact of the pandemic on graduate recruitment and how it has affected the career plans of university students.
University students have had a particularly hard time during Covid-19, having to adjust to reduced work experience opportunities and limited access to career services due to social distancing restrictions.
The survey on how the pandemic has impacted student career choices is part of our wider mission to understand the lasting challenges brought on by the pandemic. Almost 3,000 UK university students completed the survey, with key findings highlighted below.
Over a third of UK students said that the pandemic had an impact on either their degree or university choices.
Of those impacted, 30% were influenced to continue studying (i.e. for a Masters or PhD) while 22% changed their degree subject entirely, with subjects such as healthcare and engineering seeing a significant rise in applicants.
The pandemic also had a direct impact on future career options, with 35% of students saying that it caused them to reconsider their career plan. This rises to 41% when we look at those graduating in 2022.
Around half of these students have changed the sector they want to work in as a result of the pandemic, while roughly a quarter have reconsidered the type of company they would like to work for – with around 21% of respondents looking to work fully remotely in the future.
Although the pandemic led to fewer opportunities for students to build work experience, the data revealed some promising alternatives. Over half of those surveyed said that they took up a new hobby during the pandemic while 24% started a ‘side hustle’ to help build their business skills.
The lack of stability for many has led students to be more proactive when it comes to their careers. As one respondent summed up: “I realised that work is unpredictable, and you need backup plans.”
Recommendations for employers
The research has shown that students recognise that the factors of the pandemic will have long-reaching repercussions for the job market. With 41% of upcoming graduates reconsidering their future career prospects, it’s important that employers are also aware of these factors and can consider this during their graduate recruitment campaigns.
Embrace new ways of connecting
It’s more important than ever for employers to increase their visibility by getting back in front of candidates and actively highlighting the range of opportunities that are available to them.
Going forward, employers are encouraged to get back on university campuses as soon as they can to provide the face-to-face support and connection that students have been missing, as well as to embrace new ways of connecting with potential candidates such as through social content and campaigns.
Strengthening their brand and messaging should also be a priority for employers – get creative with advertising and consider ways to engage with student and graduate talent on a more personal and genuine level.
Focus on candidate interests and skills
We know that there have been fewer opportunities for students to gain relevant work experience, but with over three-quarters of students taking up hobbies and side hustles in 2021, it’s clear that they’re still gaining valuable skills through their own methods.
This speaks to the resilience and ingenuity of the UK’s early talent market; when faced with a lack of clear career options, many candidates found their own way to push forward.
As a result, employers should consider these new experiences during the recruitment process. Ask your candidates about the hobbies and skills that they have developed over the pandemic and understand the value that these traits can bring to your organisation.
Think about the future
Now that restrictions have been lifted, it’s important for employers to consider how they will be working long-term and the kind of roles that candidates are searching for.
Remote and flexible working options remain popular amongst graduates, and employers risk losing highly skilled candidates if they don’t adapt their work policies. Opening up the recruitment criteria to include remote candidates also cultivates a wider and more diverse early talent pool, which has been shown to increase creativity and collaboration within organisations.