How Will Coronavirus Impact Graduate Recruitment and Work Experience?

The Sutton Trust are producing a series of research briefs called ‘Covid-19 Impacts’ looking at the impact of Covid-19 across different levels of education and training. The latest brief released today has found that graduates are less likely to be able to find workplace experience as the impacts of Covid-19 are felt by employers. 

The brief uses statistics from a YouGov survey of employers alongside a YouthSight survey of UK undergraduates, finding both positive and negative impacts on graduate recruitment. The most affected graduates are those from poorer and disadvantaged backgrounds. You can access the research brief here.

Key Findings 

Reduced Opportunities

Many firms who previously offered internships or work experience placements have cancelled them due to the economic hardship caused by Covid-19. 61% of employers surveyed are going to cancel some or all of their placements, only 33% will continue either in person or online. 

48% of employers think there will be less opportunities in their business for internships and other placements. 49% of small and medium sized businesses have cancelled internships or work experience, whilst 29% of larger firms have.

Employers and Social Mobility 

In the aftermath of the pandemic, 29% of employers expect to prioritise social mobility and socio-economic diversity, while 11% said it would be less of a priority because of the impacts of the pandemic on their business. 43% of larger employers expect their sector to focus on social mobility, compared to 24% of small and medium sized businesses. 49% of employers expect there will be no impact on their sectors ability to take action on social mobility issues facing the UK.

Graduate Recruitment 

54% of large employers said businesses within their sector were likely to consider the impacts of missed education time, whilst 41% of small and medium sized businesses.

Graduate employment in the short-medium term received mixed responses: 33% were expecting to hire fewer, 6% were expecting to hire no graduates at all, whilst 27% were expecting to hire more. 

46% of those currently studying at undergraduate level said the pandemic had negative impacts on gaining graduate employment, whilst graduate work experience placements (18%), interviews (11%) and even job offers (4%) were withdrawn or cancelled.

The Sutton Trust brief concludes that the economic impacts of the Covid-19 crises will have “considerable and lasting consequences for social mobility” with a widening of existing inequalities and the increase in the number of children growing up in poverty. The briefing series has demonstrated the most affected group will be disadvantaged students at every stage of their life -early years, schools, apprenticeships, access to university and into the world of work.

You can access the full series here


For employers

  1. With fewer jobs likely to be available, employers should redouble efforts to open up opportunities to the best talent. This should include paying and openly advertising internships, contextualising recruitment practices and monitoring the socio-economic background of the workforce. 
  2. Employers should, where possible, move internships, work experience placements or recruitment processes online, employers and provide tech equipment if needed. 
  3. Businesses should make full use of the move to online delivery to reach a wider pool of talent, reaching large numbers of young people, without geographical restrictions. 
  4. In future, employers should take into account that many students have missed time in education due to the pandemic. Young people who have not been able to access online learning or impacted by missed exams should not be disadvantaged compared to those from other year groups. 
  5. Where possible, employers should top up wages for young people on the government’s Kickstart scheme to the Real Living Wage, to ensure all young people are able to access and benefit from these opportunities.

For government and universities

  1. The government should put in place specific support for graduates, including incentivising employers to offer paid internships with graduate employers, to ensure that talent is harnessed. The announced Kickstart scheme should include a ‘Kickstart Grads’ aspect, prioritising those the most at risk, for example graduates who have already had a period of unemployment, and those from families on low incomes who were eligible for the full maintenance loan when at university.
  2. Government should ensure high quality careers advice, applicable to graduates and those entering professional careers, is available. This could be done through providing referrals to specialised recruitment agencies from job centres.
  3. The government should increase the master’s loan for the next academic year for graduates from poorer backgrounds, to match the amount available for undergraduate study. Low level financial support and fewer options for part time work, this option will be unaffordable to many. Graduates from lower socio-economic backgrounds will be less able to draw on their families for financial support.
  4. University career guidance should be fully accessible online, prepare for the move to virtual recruitment, and have a particular focus on those from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

Our View

This brief gives an insight into the impacts of Covid-19 on undergraduates and graduates – there is growing concern about the number of opportunities available to young people and the indication that those from less socially mobile backgrounds will be further left behind. 

Young people tell us that accessing work experience is one of their biggest barriers to gaining employment, it is concerning that there will be fewer employers offering internships, work experience and other placements. 

We are yet to see the full impacts of Covid-19 on youth employment and young employment, we remain concerned about the opportunities available to young people. We await the full detail of the Kickstart scheme and its suitability to young people, our Youth Voice Census highlights that young people, particularly graduates are unlikely to sign up to Universal Credit. 

It is vital that employers consider how they can bring young people into their workforce and into quality work. Our soon to launch Good Youth Employment Campaign will be focusing on the work employers can do to ensure good quality, fair employment to all young people. 


For more information, please email or call 01536 513388.

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