Written by:Eru Osia BAGraduate Business Psychology Intern
Covid has caused a negative push in the job market for all graduates. Most of the 2020 and 2021 graduates have found it challenging to cope with the pandemic and the lockdown. Stress and confusion about their current and future plans have increased because of the global crisis. There were no directions, guidance, or other measures to support recent graduates in getting a job. Of course, graduates were not the only ones put in this position. The nation and countries worldwide were challenged with this new virus Covid-19. The virus affected the economy’s productivity and, with the restrictions set in place to avoid the spread of the virus, caused a negative shift in the economy’s growth. As a result, everyone was on lockdown, people lost their jobs or redeployed, some companies went bankrupt or had to shut down.
The research figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) shows that the unemployment rate for graduates in the labour market was high and peaking at 12.0% in the third quarter of 2020. This indicates that the pandemic has had the most significant impact on recent graduates in terms of unemployment. The information suggests that unemployment is still rising for forthcoming graduates and those who graduated in 2020 and 2021. However, with that being said, the economy is getting back on its feet and there is a progressive impact of companies recovering from the pandemic’s economic hit. Meaning the unemployment rate for graduates could take an upturn, although recruitment will most likely slow rather than completely stall.
Before Covid, final year students could attend a face-to-face job fair at their universities, and there were more graduate jobs available. The new normal requires less physical appearance with virtual appearances expected to continue. This change has compelled many companies to cut costs, reduce the number of stores available and the number of staff. Ultimately, this has influenced the 2020-2021 academic year and the forthcoming 2021 graduate recruitment cycle.
Furthermore, the crisis has made it difficult for employers and the economy to make decent decisions. The economy not only faced a high unemployment rate, but the pandemic pushed the UK economy into recession. This recession was unlike the previous downturn the country has faced. The recession was the biggest drop on record, affecting the nation greatly. However, some employers still employed new workers and published more jobs online, seeking skilled workers that know their way around.
Not all was doom and gloom. The economy started properly recovering after the lift in the lockdown. Although the 2020 graduate faced a big drop in the number of people being recruited, it is one of the most significant drops since 2009. In addition to this, it made the graduate jobs fall below the progressive line on unemployment level in the UK in the year 2020. However, there has been room for recovery in the job market.
The lift in restrictions and a higher vaccination rate has helped put the economy back on track, encouraging companies to slowly make it back to their usual activities. Despite the disruption the pandemic caused, researchers pointed out that the year 2021 has displayed a modest rise in the number of graduate vacancies on offer.
To back this up, there are now more available vacancies for graduates, although in specific key industries and business sectors. Graduate jobs or graduate schemes are still lower compared to 2019, however this is a marked improvement to where we were. Improving industries and business sectors include accounting, professional service firms, engineering, industrial companies, investment banks, and public sector employers have increased their recruitment targets for graduates.
The Office of National Statistics reveals that the highest recruiter of new graduates in 2021 is the public sector as they have been more impactful than other large industries. The public sector offers a considerable entry-level of over 5,400 jobs for graduates in different civil service organisations, Tech First and Police Now.
Graduates are concerned about their future in the post-pandemic economy. A survey done by the National Union of Students found out that over 10,000 graduate students expressed fears about the impact of the coronavirus on the economy and were concerned about their careers. This challenge has cost some their work placements, internships, and graduate schemes. Some sectors, like travel, retail, and hospitality, struggle to recover, while technology, finance, and health care are faring reasonably well.
Additionally, many feel the anxiety of constantly applying to different vacancies, being rejected, and sometimes not getting a response or feedback from companies. The level of competition adds to this worry, with top UK employers and other medium to small businesses are hoping to recruit more graduates from this recruitment wave.
Many graduates have seen the importance of switching to some of these sectors, and so they have seen that it will take time for most businesses to get back their standard job offers. Furthermore, many graduates were obliged to shift their job trajectories because of the uncertainty of how long the pandemic would extend. It’s all about rethinking the strategy and making use of the chances that are accessible. For some graduates, nothing feels certain right now, even though many employers are virtually continuing their graduate schemes. Some companies have stopped accommodating graduate schemes, whilst others have deferred graduate job start dates by a year.
The pandemic has had an impact on how employers and employees collaborated within the organisation. The restriction of face-to-face contact to reduce Covid 19 cases led companies, schools, and other sectors to go into lockdown and start working from home. This resulted in many workplace changes that made companies adopt online platforms, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. This new strategy of working from home or remote working has changed how recruitment processes are to be carried out.
Many organisations had to start moving their interviews and assessment centres entirely online. This falls in line with the graduate recruitment process. As technology is constantly advancing, the pandemic prepared many people to get used to the new norm and learn new ways of working from home via media platforms. However, this way of working was already in place but not as rampant as it became in 2020 and 2021.
The application process became more efficient, accessible, and cost-effective for both the organisations and employees. Some companies realised these benefits and are currently combining both online and face-to-face methods. Virtual recruitment allows applicants to spend less time travelling and more time preparing for a video interview, making it easier for those living outside of major cities.
Currently, for graduates, nearly all interviews, assessment centres, and psychometric tests are conducted online. To get a job, graduates have to get used to this process to avoid any health risks. Having a face-to-face interview is very different compared to an online interview, as some graduates are not too comfortable or used to talking professionally on cameras. In my interviews with graduates, it was clear that they found it hard to express themselves on camera.
The best decision for graduates is to start getting used to this new process, as it will continue for a while. Graduates should prepare themselves for this by doing a mock online interview. Graduates should familiarise themselves with the organisations to which they are applying. As a graduate, you should note that there is more competition for a specific job role, and you need to stand out from the crowd by building up your skills and LinkedIn profile.
You should note these changes as some recruitment agencies are already investing and upgrading their technology for high-performance video interviews and video conference solutions for their business. Many of these businesses have surveyed the impact of Covid 19 on remote jobs, and have adapted by identifying methods of contactless recruitment. For example, Aldi has also adapted this method of recruiting new graduates. Whereby their group assessment has been replaced with a one-to-one video interview. These are excellent opportunities for candidates to share their previous experience and showcase their fantastic skillsets.
To stand out in the job market, graduates need to enhance and update their skills. In which case, they will be able to update their CVs with something they are comfortable with, that will impress the evolving employers. In addition to this, a director of a graduate recruitment firm advised graduates to think about what they were good at and what they enjoyed during their course, work, life, and voluntary experience. It will help draw a wide range of experience, and it will assist them in becoming more employable.
The National Centre for Universities and Business explains graduates are still highly employable and are more likely to work in sectors of the economy that have been less affected, such as health and IT. In other words, if some graduates keep improving their skills or switch to a different sector, there is a higher chance of them being employed.
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