SAGEA Student Insights 2020

Student Insights 2020: The Hopes and Fears of the Class of 2020

Following the success of SAGEA’s VirtualGradExpo, we invited students to participate in further studies with us.  During October of this year we asked them for feedback on how are they are, their plans and aspirations for the future, what has changed for them, their job search plans and the impact of Covid-19 on all of the above.  615 students provided us with a snapshot of their current views, and we are delighted to share some of these with you.

Profile of Students

It is important to note that the profile of students who took part in this study is different from that of students who completed our annual Candidate Insights Study 2020.  Some of the differences are highlighted, below for your information.  Whilst there are differences, there are also many similarities and we certainly feel that the feedback from this group represents the hopes and fears of most students in a Covid-19 world.

Infographic showing results from SAGEA Candidate Insights 2020 vs SAGEA Student Insights 2020

There are some key learning points to be gleaned from this study and some nuances which, if considered by potential employers, will assist in targeting students appropriately in the next six to twelve months.

Hopes and Fears

There is no doubt that students expect their job search to be more challenging than it was pre-Covid and, although the need for job security has always been a priority it is even more amplified right now.  Students are feeling stressed about passing their examinations in 2020 and around half of these students expect that the pandemic will have a negative impact on their future employment prospects.  Financial stress is also very real with a third of our audience having experienced job-loss in their immediate family.  Employers are already sensitive to the challenges experienced by many students and are encouraged to keep their finger on the pulse in checking students’ individual circumstances when interacting with them.

Students are altering their views around which industries they perceive to be either more or less attractive as a result of Covid-19, with a fifth confirming that they would be more circumspect about working in industries that have been hard hit by the pandemic.  Some industries are naturally more attractive, such as technology, chemical and pharmaceuticals and the telecoms industries.  Sadly, the hotel, tourism and construction sectors are less attractive at this point.

Interestingly, this group of students have a higher propensity for community involvement and giving back than our Candidate Insights group, with 60% saying this is of importance to them versus around 25% in the Candidate Insights study.  Employers should ensure that they highlight their CSI initiatives and Covid-19 responses as a key part of their graduate attraction campaigns.

When it comes to previous experience with potential employers, 80% of this group had not been exposed to either vacation employment or internship opportunities – though 44% had done voluntary or charity work and 39% had done part-time or casual work, in some cases to support the cost of being at University.  A stand-out piece is that nearly half of these students have changed their mind about what it is that they want to do since commencing their job search.  Part of this may be as a result of their altered industry perceptions and increased need for job security as discussed above – however, this may also be as a result of misconceptions due to a lack of primary exposure to potential employers through work or internships.  In addition, 72% rated work experience as a key influential source of information when they are engaged in a job search.  Herein lies a wonderful opportunity for employers!  Much has been learned by employers who were agile in converting to virtual internships – the scalability of these types of opportunities should be harnessed!

Whilst 2020 has necessitated digital forms of communication and engagement, students have indicated a clear preference for marketing and promotions that allow for conversation and dialogue – such as careers fairs (92%), careers services (88%) and employer events (81%).  In-person events may be on hold for some time to come but constant communication with students must remain at the forefront of your graduate strategy – keep in touch, keep students informed and keep them engaged.

This article has provided a snapshot of some, but not all the features of this study.  For more information or to view the presentation visit our resource section.