The Covid-19 pandemic has seen UK unemployment rates soar, causing the job search for graduates to become even more difficult. 

Official figures show the proportion of people out of work grew to 4.1% in the three months to July, compared with 3.9% previously. 

Young people aged 16-24 have been the most affected with the biggest drop in employment compared with other age groups. 

Dan Teague, a History graduate, has been working in a warehouse for the last two months since graduating with a 2:1 from the University of Sheffield in July. 

He told Forge Press: “A few months ago I was finishing my dissertation in my bedroom, today I got up at 5am to load bikes onto lorries for 8 hours.

“When I didn’t get my ideal options for this year like the Civil Service and local council grad schemes, I didn’t envisage getting turned down by supermarkets and customer service roles and it’s certainly been a blow to my self esteem.”

A survey for the Prince’s Trust found that 44% of 16-24 year-olds said they had to lower their aspirations. 

Teague was also concerned for the future given his warehouse job contract ends in December:

“After Christmas stock is processed, I might well be back to being unemployed,” he said.

“Really, I’m completely treading water because I can’t quit a job when jobs are hard to come by, but equally I’m too tired to invest the necessary time to invest into applications for better jobs in what is a very crowded job market.” 

The furlough scheme allows employees to continue to be paid when work is not available at that time, however people on fixed-term contracts miss out.

In an increasingly online world, many graduates have turned to LinkedIn to find job opportunities. 

Kirsty Ngo, a recent Geography graduate, said it was hard not to compare herself to others. 

She said: “Seeing everyone’s success stories on LinkedIn makes me wonder whether I’m actually suited for the jobs that I really want to apply for, and maybe I shouldn’t be too ambitious in my career.

“When I look at the LinkedIn job postings and see the huge number of applicants it does demotivate me a bit.

“I’m starting to feel the pressure because I don’t want to end up having huge gaps in my CV. I’m aware that job searching is going to be a struggle but knowing that I’m not the only one helps me to stop being so hard on myself.”

Currently, Ngo is working a part-time admin job with a firm that she interned at last year. She says it has been great to have some kind of structure in her day. 

Ngo and Teague both spoke of the demanding application process to find graduate jobs.

Teague said the gruelling application process is not only time-consuming but demoralising as most companies do not even reply despite lengthy application processes.  

Ngo added: “There are longer delays in the process of applications, and due to the high number of applicants I find that I’m getting less personal feedback than usual. 

“A lot of grad schemes who hire on a rolling basis have paused their application processes due to the amount of people applying this year. A lot of big firms have closed down some of their regional offices which makes me feel like the competition is even more fierce than usual.”

The Government has launched a scheme called Kickstart to create work placements for unemployed young people. Employers will be paid £1,500 for every employee that they train. The scheme aims to help young people build the skills they need to find a job. 

However, with job vacancies significantly lower now than pre-Covid, there are concerns the scheme will not do enough to create long-term jobs. 

Kirstie Donnelly, chief executive of the City & Guilds skills organisation warned: “This is yet another example of a quick-fix solution which appears to be positioning the skills development of young people as a mere afterthought, rather than a priority.”

She called instead for “real jobs” to be created “otherwise it just becomes a tokenistic, sticking plaster solution, that burns up significant resources that might be better utilised.”


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