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Student and graduates change career plans post-COVID

March 2021

Professional support and guidance is vital as students and graduates re-evaluate their careers due to the pandemic 

Prospects surveyed more than 6,500 students and graduates to find out how COVID-19 was impacting their career decisions and experiences. 

More than a quarter (27%) of respondents had changed their career plans due to the pandemic and 37% said they are still uncertain about what they will do. 

Students and graduates cited a variety of reasons for switching their plans. Many had been inspired by people who were actively involved in supporting the pandemic response while others said they wanted to escape industries that were struggling such as travel and hospitality. 

Some respondents said they were looking at apprenticeships as an alternative to study, so they could start to earn money. Three quarters of respondents said that they had looked for an apprenticeship or training scheme in the last 12 months. 

Training and development opportunities, career progression and work/life balance were the top three most important factors students and graduates cited when considering their career options. 

The job and career prospects of the young have been hit disproportionately hard and they deserve the best support we can offer.

Prospects also asked about the challenges being faced. Those at school said taking care of their mental health was their biggest challenge followed by studying at home. College and university students and graduates cited that keeping motivated was their main challenge, followed by taking care of their mental health. 

Nabilah Thagia, 17 from Bolton, is studying for her A-levels at college. She said 'I had set my sights on engineering in Year 10 but had second thoughts because there were so many other options available that I enjoyed. Reading about the amazing contributions engineers were able to make during the pandemic, through manufacturing ventilators, PPE and statistically modelling the spread of COVID-19 definitely helped to change my mind. 

'I've decided to pursue engineering as a career, so will be undertaking a degree apprenticeship. This gives me the best of both worlds as I can gain valuable work experience and industry-recognised qualifications at the same time. The degree apprenticeship schemes in the UK are of a very high quality so I'm really excited for this next step in my engineering career.' 

Charlie Ball, head of higher education intelligence for Prospects at Jisc said, 'The developments and research in health and social care and other industries are making people see those careers with a fresh perspective. These careers can be both challenging and rewarding, and they will have certain requirements, so it's vital to seek professional advice and guidance.  

'The expert support available from university and college careers services will help those feeling lost or uncertain of what to do next. With challenging job prospects and students off campus, many young people are naturally feeling vulnerable and isolated. It's vital that we find more ways to deliver career advice and support to young people, particularly those in under-represented groups who are at most risk of disadvantage. We must remember that although students and graduates have shown remarkable resilience and adaptability during the last year, the job and career prospects of the young have been hit disproportionately hard by this pandemic and they deserve the best support we can offer.' 

The full results of Prospects' student survey will be published in June 2021. 

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