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Coronavirus pandemic widens graduate inequalities

The pandemic has widened inequalities between graduates that were privately educated and those that were state educated.

Graduate confidence about career prospects has also fallen to a record low, according to new research by graduate careers service Bright Network.

Over two-thirds (68%) of university graduates educated at state school do not feel confident about securing a graduate role after leaving university, while less than three-fifths (58%) of privately educated graduates share this lack of confidence.

The gap has widened over the past two years, as in 2019 46% of state educated graduates weren’t confident about securing a graduate role, compared with 40% of their privately educated peers.

Bright Network’s head of people, Ally Monk said the findings underline the vital role that HR functions must play in levelling the playing field for all candidates, regardless of background.

He told HR magazine: “It’s critical that businesses ensure a welcoming environment for all graduates and ensure that once hired, every graduate is able to live up to their full potential.

“We must prevent an even larger confidence gap growing once graduates are in the world of work; it’s incumbent on human resources to ensure that both the recruitment structure and support once within the company help to bring out the best in all candidates.”

How graduates feel about starting their careers:

Job optimism falls among UK graduates

Companies struggling to retain BAME and female graduates

More graduates feeling underemployed

Over the past year, the pandemic has had a significant impact on recent graduates, as a third (32%) have seen jobs and applications withdrawn due to the poor economy.

The pandemic’s effect on the economy has led to a 5% decrease in expected starting salary among state educated graduates, from £26,200 in 2019 to £24,832 this year.

Among privately educated graduates, the average expected starting salary is £28,069, a decline of only 1% from £28,400 since 2019.

James Uffindell, founder & CEO of Bright Network said: “The research has revealed that the economic impact of the pandemic has exacerbated inequalities around career opportunities for young people, and it must be a priority for employers to address these issues in the year ahead.

“Despite this, we know that graduates remain cautious but focused on securing a good graduate job and are always looking for the opportunities to gain the practical skills they need to secure a job after university.”

Uffindell said it is important for employers and universities to ensure all graduates have the opportunity to learn new skills during university, and in their first career role.