Covid-19 and graduate careers
This was an unplanned additional stage of the research. As we had analysed the finding of the 2019 research, Covid-19 struck and we became uncomfortably aware that many of those who responded so positively about their current situations and were optimistic about their future prospects might be seriously challenged by the restriction and financial implications of the emerging situation. In the event, we found that for the majority, already established in appropriate careers where their qualifications and the experience that they had accrued since graduating had largely insulted them from the worst effects of the pandemic, had survived reasonably securely. However, it was clear that for many, especially those in sectors of employment particularly affected by the restrictions, and for those in relatively precarious employment situations, the restrictions and financial impact had led to serious difficulties. Although few had been made redundant or experienced substantial income reductions, many more had been furloughed, lost income and work opportunities, and been forced to re-evaluate what was important to them. Virtually all of them had experienced substantial impacts on their capacities to do their jobs and changes in modes of working, and on their general well-being.
The report covers the full range of experiences, from those who provided essential goods and services who had to take account of the Covid-19 restrictions and changing regulations as they were exposed to the dangers of workplaces and public transport to get to work, those balancing hybrid patterns of working, and those confined to working exclusively from home. Some found that the experiences reinforced their commitment to their careers and, among those working from home, enjoyed new freedom to adjust their work/life balances and spend more time in the family and community and less on travel. Others found the isolation and lack of normal support and resources to do their jobs as before extremely stressful. For many, whether working on site or at home, there were unprecedented stresses and concerns leading to mental health problems. Those with children were particularly challenged during lockdowns and withdrawal of the normal childcare support they had relied on.
The proportion of the graduates who responded that they were optimistic or reasonably about their long-term career prospects fell from 78 per cent to 70 per cent between 2019 and 2020. While this is a significant change, the high ;levels of confidence indicate that most of these graduates were confident of surviving the pandemic, but it masks radical changes in their attitudes to career development in the future, as is discussed in the report. The implications for the future of work, employment and the graduate labour market are also discussed.