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Spare a thought for final year graduates

Sunshine is slowly seeping back into our lives and most of us are feeling more optimistic about the future. International borders are opening, children are back learning in classrooms, industry is returning to onsite working, and outlets like pubs, restaurants, gyms and cinemas are free to welcome back customers. The outlook both for the UK economy and life in general is getting brighter by the minute. Who knows, maybe even business travel could soon be back on the agenda – good news, especially for those with international customers and suppliers?

However, before we get too carried away, perhaps we should pause to spare a thought for graduates completing their final year in 2021. Not only are they the unfortunate group who have been denied face-to-face learning for over a year, worse still, when they graduate with their degrees and diplomas, they will likely face a bleak jobs outlook.

Research by Indeed, the world’s largest jobs website, shows that vacancies for university leavers are down by almost a quarter (24%) compared with pre-pandemic levels and are 13% off even 2020. Postings for internship roles have also plunged by 41% since 2019 and by over a third (35%) in the last year alone. The extent of the problem is further highlighted by the fact that the entire labour market is only down by 4% against pre-pandemic levels. So, what have employers got against graduates?

With the landscape constantly changing, it is dangerous to draw definitive conclusions. However, the consensus is that employers are cutting back on graduate recruitment either to cut costs or because they currently prefer to hire more experienced staff who require less training. Either way, not only does this appear to be scant reward for all those years spent learning, but also a short-sighted attitude from employers who should be encouraging the brightest, freshest minds into the workplace.

Jack Kennedy, UK economist at Indeed, recently commented: “Many newly-hired graduates may find themselves working in a physical office and having regular in-person contact with their colleagues too. Working alongside more experienced colleagues learning the ropes is easy. Better than video calls!”

This may be true but, based on our experience of collaborating with Universities, the benefits are considerable, and work both ways. Yes, graduates can learn a great deal from experienced, skilled workers, but it is also true that an influx of bright young minds brings huge benefits in the opposite direction. Graduates bring enthusiasm, energy and, most important of all, knowledge of the latest technology. Theory meets commercial application, and vice versa. We call that synergy.