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ISE report, supported by AGCAS: What is the impact of the crisis on student recruitment and development?

18 May 2020

In a recent all-member survey, AGCAS members rated 'accessing up to date labour market information' as their number one priority over the coming months. In response, AGCAS has supported the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) with the second in a series of research reports designed to understand the impact of COVID-19 on how employers recruit and develop students and graduates. This report is based on the findings of a survey with 179 student employers. Respondents included both large employers and SMEs and represented a broad sectorial and geographical spread.

It concludes that the student labour market is ‘down but not out’ and that while it is a challenging time for young workers to be entering the labour market, employers are continuing to recruit and adapting their recruitment processes to the new situation. The future is volatile and careers services, employers, young people and the government will have to work hard to ensure that the next generations of student talent are utilised to their full potential.

Key finding from the survey includes:

  1. Respondents have reduced their planned student recruitment for this year by 23%. Recruitment is down for all types of hires, but the impact is least for graduates, as respondents report that they plan to recruit just 12% less graduates than they were going to before the Covid-19 crisis. However, they anticipate recruiting 32% less apprentices and school leavers and 40% less interns and placement students.
  2. The reduction in hiring is worse for SMEs than larger firms and for firms in the Built environment, Finance & professional services and Energy, engineering and industry sectors. Reductions are driven by the general uncertainty in the situation and by concerns about financial problems.
  3. A minority of firms have reneged on existing job offers or plan to do so. 14% of respondents reported that they had already reneged on a job offer. Renege rates are particularly high in the Built environment sector (36%) and the Retail & FMCG sector (38%). Looking forwards, 14% of firms were considering the possibility of reneging on more offers this year with the Built environment (28%) and Retail & FMCG (25%) again being the most likely to be considering further reneges.
  4. Almost 40% of employers have still not finalised their hiring plans for next year suggesting that there is a lot of volatility in the student labour market.
  5. Employers have shifted a lot of their recruitment processes online and cancelled most face-to-face activities. There is still much uncertainty about what will happen in the next recruitment season, but there is a strong indication that online recruitment may become the new normal.
  6. Most employers are keen to keep communications open with universities, though large organisations are more likely to prefer frequent engagement. SMEs were more likely to request that universities refrain from contacting them until their recruitment situation is clearer. They are also keen to see education providers move careers provision online to align with their online recruitment processes and to take a lead in suggesting new ways of facilitating employer-student interaction.
  7. Around a third (31%) of employers anticipate delaying the start dates for new hires. Dates vary, but most are just pushing start dates back a month or two, with a minority shifting start dates to early 2021.
  8. While all employers are experiencing challenges and problems due to Covid-19 and the lockdown, large employers were more likely to highlight the upsides of the crisis by discussing potential changes to business flexibility, the introduction of new technologies and increased homeworking. SMEs were typically more concerned with financial problems and business survival.

View report