Fewer Graduates Feel Universities Are Preparing Students For The Changing Workplace

Friday, August 14, 2020

Many of this year’s graduates finished their degrees online and are due to enter the workplace amidst a tumultuous jobs market, however, fewer graduates felt like their university had prepared them for the workplace this year, with only 15% reporting that they felt completely prepared (down from 18% last year).

Graduate jobs board Milkround’s survey of nearly 3,000 students, graduates and young workers has revealed that 10% of the next generation of workers feel wholly unprepared for the workplace after their degree. A quarter (25%) felt that their university could have done more to prepare them (up from 15% in 2019). This, combined with the current climate, could be the driving force contributing to weaker graduate confidence, with 21% fewer graduates reporting they are confident they will work in their dream industry (62% in 2020, compared to 83% in 2019).

In terms of skills young workers feel they lack when they enter the workplace, they rank public speaking (45%), job function specific skills (e.g. knowing a particular IT programme) (44%), and confidence (43%) as their biggest concerns. More generally, students and graduates are worried they won’t learn fast enough (55%), or just won’t be good enough at the job (54%). Female students and graduates were more worried about their future career prospects than their male counter parts, whether that was competition from those with more work experience or networking opportunities (72% women vs. 64% men), low pay (50% vs. 40%), or candidates from more prestigious universities (40% vs. 36%).

Georgina Brazier, Graduate Jobs Expert commented: “This year’s cohort of graduate workers are entering the jobs market at an incredibly difficult time, but we are starting to see green shoots as businesses look to make hires – particularly in industries like IT, Education and Logistics. Recent commitments from the Government, such as their ‘kickstart scheme’, should also provide some reassurance for candidates that more opportunities will start to open up. However, many graduates have already lost positions previously secured and the number of applications per vacancy is increasing, meaning each application process is going to be competitive. It’s important that graduates understand the skills employers are looking for and how they can access support to upskill themselves over the summer break.”

“There is more work universities and employers can and should be doing to support students and recent graduates over this summer, particularly with more leaving university feeling unprepared this year than last. However, for graduates looking to finesse their own skillsets, many universities have amazing post-graduation career support schemes in place and many businesses are offering virtual internships or training sessions over the summer.”

Graham Philpott, Lead Careers Consultant from Henley Business School suggested: “Organisations’ senior managers often recruit graduates for their fresh approaches, their new ways of working, their insights into the younger generations. But to profit from these, the existing workers in the organisations need to understand this and be willing to listen and try new things. Their first line manager is a vital part of a graduate’s success – a manager with a supportive, encouraging, coaching approach will help them develop and embed these skills quickly – and all the potential that the recruiters spotted in the graduate will be realised far more rapidly because of it.”

COVID-19 has had a major impact on students and graduates

Students and graduates are also concerned about the impact that recent events will have on their careers. When asked what social and political factors will affect their prospects, this year’s cohort believe COVID-19 (56%) will have the greatest negative impact, followed by Brexit (19%). Young workers report that concern around COVID-19 makes them more likely to accept the first job they are offered (47%) after university and accept a lower salary (46%). In fact, 60% of respondents report that wider political, social or health uncertainty (e.g. Brexit or the impact of COVID-19) has caused them stress or anxiety.

Nonetheless, over two thirds (71%) said that COVID-19 has not impacted their decision on which industry or sector to go into. The NHS ranks first in terms of respondents’ ‘dream companies’ to work for, closely followed by Google. This remains unchanged from Milkround’s 2019 Candidate Compass. More broadly, a third (37%) of students and graduates want to work for a large corporation, potentially seeking greater job security. SMEs (32%) and global companies (26%) followed closely behind in terms of places young workers wanted to work.

Georgina Brazier, Graduate Jobs Expert at Milkround added: “The NHS has played an essential role over the last few months, and it’s understandable that this is reflected in the places graduates want to work. COVID-19 has heavily impacted graduate confidence, but importantly, many students and graduates continue to show resilience and are excited to start their careers. Over the next few months, it’s essential that employers really understand what it is the next generation of workers are looking for as they enter the workplace, and work out how they can support recent graduates in realising their dreams despite the current circumstances.”