Page navigation

The impact of COVID on engagement with careers services

September 2021

Stephen Smith at the University of Strathclyde explores the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the delivery of career information, advice, and guidance (CIAG) for graduates

This article focuses on engagement with graduates, employers and new initiatives careers services have introduced across Scottish higher education institutions (HEIs).

About the study

The research aimed to explore the impact of a global pandemic (COVID-19) on the delivery of CIAG for graduates. The study was carried out by an online survey, which included both quantitative and qualitative questions, and 31 careers professionals across 11 Scottish HEIs participated. The research study was exploratory and therefore not aiming to find conclusive results, allowing a small sample size to still provide valuable insight on the topic.

A summary of the all the preliminary findings and reflections from the study can be found in the August 2021 edition of the AGCAS journal Phoenix.1

The research study supported the notion that university careers services had been proactive towards adapting and innovating their services to support graduates through the COVID-19 crisis.

Engagement with graduates

Findings from the research study showed that careers professionals felt engagement with graduates had increased since the start of the pandemic. Considering graduates more broadly, 64.5% felt it had either increased or significantly increased, 29% stating it was more or less the same, and only 6.4% thought it had decreased or significantly decreased.

Careers professionals were also asked more specifically around engagement with international graduates. 53.3% felt engagement had increased, while 40% felt it was more or less the same, and 6.7% felt it had decreased.

Results from the joint international survey on career guidance and policy and practice in the pandemic stated there was an evident increase in demand for careers guidance services on a global scale as the role of careers guidance has become more prevalent than ever.2 Based on the findings from this study it can be seen that there is an increased demand for careers guidance services, more specifically, from graduates from Scottish HEIs. 

What's new?

As part of the research study careers professionals were asked if they had created any additional provision specifically to support graduates since the COVID-19 pandemic and an overwhelming majority, 90%, reported that they had.

There was a wide range of examples of additional support which had been created or support that had been repackaged and targeted towards graduates. Examples included:

  • a series of specific careers workshops targeted at graduates
  • a joint event between the careers and employability service and the alumni service on 'graduating in difficult times', which involved invited alumni speakers who graduated during the 2008 financial crash
  • a micro mentoring scheme for graduates
  • online toolkits specifically for graduates
  • online events specifically aimed at the 2020 graduating population to reflect the challenging times they graduated into
  • a package of graduate specific resources, workshops to support disabled graduates not yet in employment
  • kickstart your graduate career - repackaged and branded materials for graduates during the pandemic
  • graduate booklet
  • career week specifically for graduates
  • online employability enhancement award - designed to target recent graduates
  • a bespoke career development programme for graduates
  • dedicated section on careers website for graduates.

The research study therefore supported the notion that university careers services had been proactive towards adapting and innovating their services to support graduates through the COVID-19 crisis.

Engagement with employers

When considering employer engagement with their services since the pandemic, 60% of careers professionals felt it had increased (50% significantly increased; 10% increased). 17% felt it had decreased while 23% felt it had stayed roughly the same.

The Institute of Student Employers (ISE) survey noted a wide number of employer engagement activities on-campus had been stopped due to COVID-19.3 While on-campus attraction activities were stopped (or reduced), given an increase in employer engagement was noted by careers professionals it would appear that employers took advantage of technology to engage with universities and their careers services (and subsequently their students and graduates) remotely.

The research discussed in this article was carried out as part of the MSc Career Guidance and Development top-up module at the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) under the supervision of Dr Marjorie McCrory.


  1. Phoenix, AGCAS.
  2. Career guidance policy and practice in the pandemic, CEDEFOP, 2020.
  3. Student recruitment survey 2020: Challenge and resilience in the year of COVID-19, Institute of Student Employers, 2020.

Get insights in your inbox!

Related articles

Loading articles...





This article is tagged with:

Event: {{}}



This event is tagged with:

Loading articles...