The impact of Covid-19 on recent graduates’ career decisions and outcomes

The Covid-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on health, education, employment and society in general, on a global scale. It was already clear, even early into the pandemic, that the economic fallout would be particularly hard on young people, including graduates.

This report, which is a collaboration between the University of Southampton and the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS), is the first release of a longitudinal study into how the pandemic has affected recent graduates' career decisions and outcomes. The project has been funded by The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Read the full report

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Recent graduates are showing signs of initial employment ‘scarring’ due to Covid-19

Disabled graduates more likely to feel their job prospects have been damaged by Covid-19 and less likely to feel supported by employers

First generation graduates and those with less social capital more affected by the pandemic

Recent graduates want more support from employers during the pandemic

Recent Scottish graduates are faring better than the general population of recent graduates since Covid-19 but have still faced significant challenges


Graduate recruitment - Short-term setbacks or long-term scars? (Wonkhe, 26 July 2021)

Recent graduates want more support during the job recruitment process, study shows (University of Southampton, 27 August 2021)

The following recommendations are made to key stakeholders, within and outside the higher education sector, to support graduates entering the Covid-hit economy

Recommendations for higher education institutions and careers services

  1. Higher education institutions (HEIs) should recognise the impact that Covid-19 has had on graduate employment and opportunities for career development and the vital role that careers and employability professionals play in supporting graduates. As a result, they should explore the extension of access to relevant university support and infrastructure, e.g. via career and skills development online learning resources.
  2. Careers and employability services should be resourced appropriately in order to provide targeted support to graduates most affected by the challenging labour market, which may involve the recruitment of additional and/or specialist practitioners or investment in further professional development in best supporting graduates during challenging labour market transitions.
  3. HEIs should ensure that careers education, information, advice and guidance (CEIAG) and opportunities for work experience, experiential learning and skills development are considered as essential parts of the university experience and integrated in ways that best complement existing programmes and values that exist within the institution’s employability ecosystem.
  4. HEIs should continue to draw on alumni networks to support graduates, which might include targeted support and mentoring for those experiencing greatest challenges. Continued effort should be made to ensure that graduates – particularly female graduates and those who are first in their family to go to university – are aware of the support on offer for them. Any increase in demand for support from graduates needs to be resourced appropriately.
  5. Careers and employability services should continue to offer opportunities for graduates to develop their social capital, with a particular focus on disabled graduates and continue to explore new ways of helping students develop meaningful professional relationships in a virtual environment.

 Recommendations for employers of graduates

  1. Employers should commit to high-quality development programmes and on-the-job training to support a cohort of graduates that will need to be agile in a challenging labour market.
  2. Employers should demonstrate a commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion through ensuring the job vacancies clearly asks candidates whether they require reasonable adjustments, adjusting recruitment process accordingly and providing structured support and mentoring for graduates who may find the transition into employment more challenging.
  3. Where possible and prudent to do so, graduate employers should provide a clear training pathway for graduate recruits, internships for students and more transparent information about available openings and how they recruit graduates.
  4. Employers should inform graduates if they have been unsuccessful in the recruitment process, wherever possible. All unsuccessful applicants who reach the final interview stage of the recruitment process must be informed that they are unsuccessful and given the opportunity to receive feedback 

 Recommendations for sector organisations and policy makers

  1. Graduates should be considered separately to other groups (e.g. young people who are classed as NEET) in policy recommendations.
  2. Sector organisations, including but not limited to AGCAS, should continue to facilitate the sharing of best practice in HE careers and employability delivery, including models and initiatives that have proven value, and relevant resources across institutions.
  3. This research has shown that graduates have experienced the Covid-affected labour market differently based on their personal characteristics, but it does not explore the impact of multiple intersecting identities. Funding is recommended to conduct further research to understand how personal characteristics influence the transition into the labour market and develop evidence-based interventions.
  4. Funding should be provided to UK regions to allow HEIs to collaborate locally to create programmes, such as paid internship programmes, that support SMEs to recruit students and graduates.
  5. Any funding or policy interventions should be directed through higher education careers services as experts in the career development and outcomes of their graduate population.

 Dr Michael Tomlinson, Associate Professor, University of Southampton, says:

Working in positive partnership with HEIs, employers are in an important position in helping support graduates’ transitions into the labour market. Employers can build on good practice in helping facilitate significant forms of work experience and work-integrated learning, as well as offering effective initial training, internships and work opportunities to support graduates who may be struggling to find initial employment.