More jobs for the young, but it’s a long way yet to go

Graduates (1)

Graduate recruitment is rebounding from the depths of last year’s plunge that has pushed long-term unemployment among the UK’s youngest workers to a five-year high, signalling a welcome respite for those who have borne the brunt of pandemic job losses.

Recent research by the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) found that more than a third of 135 of the UK’s biggest graduate recruiters are increasing their intake this year, while a further 48 per cent said they would be hiring the same number as last year. Just 16% said they were cutting graduate recruitment, down from the 44% who scaled back on recruitment in 2020.

It was a similar story for school leavers, with 31% of employers increasing recruitment and 57% holding steady on last year. Eleven per cent are cutting back on hiring school leavers, down from 44% in the previous 12 months.

It’s welcome news for those under the age of 25, who account for almost two-thirds of those who have lost their jobs during the pandemic. Of all 16- to 24-year-olds who are currently unemployed, nearly three-quarters have been without a job for at least six months.

While any recovery is good news, job opportunities for young people fell drastically last year, meaning that the improvement in 2021 will fall far short of regaining the activity levels of 2019. Unemployed graduates and school leavers from 2020 will be joined in the coming weeks by the 2021 cohort, swamping a market unable to absorb current levels of young jobseekers.

Those preparing to leave school or university later this year should be thinking about ways in which they can stand out in a crowded market. This could mean developing extra skills outside the academic curriculum or taking on volunteer work to gain some experience.

Those looking to land their first job need also be prepared for a market in which recruitment methods are evolving.

Recruiters were forced to switch to virtual interviewing to comply with health and safety restrictions after the outbreak of Covid-19, and many are planning to keep at least some of their hiring processes online. When asked by the ISE, most employers said they will be taking a blended approach to hiring new graduates and school leavers, with a mix of video and face-to-face interviews when restrictions have eased.

This new direction of travel is promising, but we are not yet out of the woods if we are to avoid writing off a generation of young people to mass unemployment.

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Posted on May 13, 2021