The past year has been like no other for students and recent graduates – youth unemployment is high, graduates' career confidence is low, and the future of the workplace has changed rapidly.
Bright Network has just released its latest annual research looking at what really matters to graduates when it comes to their first job and employer. The report – based on 15,158 respondents – covers confidence, ambitions and concerns, as well as the importance of wellbeing, diversity and supporting social mobility for today’s future job seekers.
Here are five key insights that can help employers define their future graduate recruitment and engagement strategies:
1. We need to do more to encourage talent from all backgrounds
Confidence across the student population about securing a graduate-level job has dropped to 39% compared to 49% in early 2020. This decline is amplified when considering school background, with only 32% of state educated university students feeling confident compared to 42% from their privately schooled counterparts.
One clear reason for this is that privately educated university students are more likely to participate in formal internships (one-third compared to a quarter educated at a non-selective state school) and the pandemic has increased this gap. 77% of students say they’ve found it harder to connect with employers over the last year, so students that don’t have a network around them are increasingly struggling to access leading employers and therefore not building their confidence about going into graduate schemes in highly competitive sectors.
2. Upskilling is vital to graduate recruitment strategies
Career support throughout university is key to supporting more graduates into careers and ensuring everyone has the opportunity to flourish in their early career. With only 42% of students saying that they feel prepared to enter the world of work, there are ways in which companies can help boost the confidence of the next generation.
95% of students are looking to graduate employers to support them with their skills development during university. Students are also shifting their focus, with a view that coding is now the most desirable route to a secure and well-paid career – with one in five (from one in ten last year) believing they should have a strong grasp before entering the working world.
3. What employers want and what students think are two different things
It’s not just core skills where companies can have an impact to support students and ultimately drive higher quality applications. There’s also a clear disconnect between what graduates think employers are looking for and what employers actually say they are looking for.
Results show that students believe employers most value existing industry experience and a university qualification of 2:1 or above. In reality these aren’t that important for employers. They are more focused on the candidate's passion for the business and core transferable skills, which can be demonstrated from all kinds of experience.
Both problem solving and resilience are skills which employers really value, but for students they don’t see them as the key skills they need to be demonstrating. This point is vital for employers to convey to candidates to start seeing improved applications from graduates, as well as not putting off great potential candidates because they haven’t done a formal internship.
4. Diversity and inclusion are essential across the student population
It’s important to the student population for an employer to be inclusive. 92% of surveyed students will at least consider an employer's commitment to diversity and inclusion before applying, with almost half saying it’s something they actively research.
Getting buy-in from across the business around inclusivity is vital to having an authentic message for today’s graduates. Many employers are currently enacting positive change within their culture and ways of working – sharing this with students is a critical first step in showing that an organisation is committed to positive, meaningful initiatives in the workplace.
5. Graduates want to come into the office
Students are enthusiastic about being in the office environment with 94% stating that they want at least some time on site per week in their graduate role. There are social aspects to this, with young people wanting to connect with others in the office after potentially moving location to take a position. In turn, this supports learning through observing senior figures and role models in the working environment.
As businesses make decisions about their future workplace and policies on remote working, the next generation, and their ability to grow in their early career does need to be factored in.
Discover more from Bright Network’s What do graduates want? 2021/22 here.