The latest ISE Student Recruitment Survey 2020 reported that this is the largest fall in graduate recruitment since 2008/9 when the market contracted by 25% during the previous recession.
Both IT and engineering sectors reported a difficult year when it came to graduate job recruitment.
Nearly half (42%) of employers found it difficult to fill IT jobs in programming and development and 35% struggled to recruit engineers. Heavy competition and a lack of graduates with the necessary skills were the most common reasons employers give for struggling with recruitment.
The data also showed a significant increased competition for jobs.
Employers received 14% more applications for graduate roles this year and 9% more for internships and placements. Applications for school and college leaver roles also increased by 8%.
Due to COVID-19, employers have had to significantly reduce internships and placement opportunities this year – 29% and 25% respectively – the largest drop since the ISE started collecting this data in 2010.
Stephen Isherwood, chief executive of the ISE told HR magazine: “While graduate jobs are down, they do not appear to be collapsing and school and college leaver recruitment seems to be holding up.
“At the moment student employers are holding their nerve and taking very measured responses to the changed situation.
“If a recession proves to be protracted there is a danger that early talent hiring will reduce further which will limit opportunities for students. We look to the government to do all it can to ensure that the pandemic does not disrupt this key career transition from education to work.”
Ian William, recruitment manager at accounting firm Saffery Champness LLP, gave a firsthand account of an employers’ experience with current graduate recruitment.
Williams said that while this year they managed to honour the 40 graduate offers they had made up to March, they had to reduce the overall number that they intended to hire this year by 10-15%.
All of their internships were put on hold and reoffered to successful candidates for 2021.
“It is important that we protect our current staff as well as new people moving in, so our approach to recruitment has been cautiously optimistic this year,” said Williams.
“We didn’t want to over hire or be in a position where we had to withdraw offers. While, like many other professional firms, we took the decision to reduce the number of graduate jobs this year this was only by a small amount, and we made sure that we could fulfil our obligations on offers that we had already made and maintained school leaver recruitment.”