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Graduates changing career plans because of Brexit uncertainty

Graduates are concerned about what Brexit, and its effect on the job market, could mean for them personally

Almost a quarter of graduates have changed their future career plans as a result of Brexit, according to research from Korn Ferry Hay Group.

Graduates, Brexit and Beyond, seen exclusively by HR magazine, surveyed 500 graduates, and found that in the UK 24% have altered their plans as a result of the UK’s decision to leave the EU. In Europe, 44% of graduates reported that they would be reconsidering their options following the vote.

Lucy Beaumont, a principal at Korn Ferry Hay Group and author of the report, said employers should sympathise with graduates. “Put on your graduate shoes and think about the current economic situation from their perspective,” she said. “Graduates have witnessed previous generations dealing with the fallout of a global financial crisis and are concerned about job security in a landscape shrouded in uncertainty following the Brexit vote.”

Beaumont is concerned the UK could be facing a talent drought in the future. 2016 saw a surge in EU nationals applying to study in the UK, with 26,800 currently at university in Britain. This is expected to fall post-Brexit. At the same time the number of UK students rose by just 3%. Additionally, 31% of UK graduates would like to leave to work in another country.

“This suggests we could see a phenomenal talent drain, leading to skills shortages in the graduate market,” Beaumont warned.

Lizzie Crowley, skills adviser at the CIPD, emphasised the importance of training to cope with the looming skills gap. “The majority of the 2030 workforce are already in work. It’s vital we encourage more businesses and individuals to invest in training.”

Graduates were found to be highly concerned about what Brexit would mean to them personally. When asked which word summed up their feelings about Brexit the most popular option was ‘uncertain’, selected by 29%. The next most popular answer was ‘concerned’, chosen by 19%, then ‘optimistic’, picked by 12%. One in 20 (6%) said they were afraid of being left jobless.

Terry Jones, VP of talent and development at Chubb, was unsurprised that many young people feel downbeat about Brexit. “When you look at the demographics of who voted it is clear that the majority of young people wanted the UK to stay in the EU,” he told HR magazine. “It’s no surprise that they are now considering how to have that European experience.”

This attitude is reflected in the factors graduates are prioritising when looking for a new job. More than a third (38%) said one of their key priorities was job security, 30% thought finding a role in the right location was of high importance, and 36% were focused on simply finding an available position.

“In a post-Brexit economy factors such as job security and finding a job in the right location are now top priorities,” said Beaumont, adding that this indicates graduates have real concerns about the job market. “As employers we need to recognise these concerns, allaying these fears where we can and considering the wider offering for graduates where these concerns may be a potential reality.”

Jones added: “Firms need to be able to adapt and evolve in a way that attracts graduates to their roles.”

Crowley advised refreshing workforce planning strategies and a focus on retention as well as training. While only 14% of graduates prioritised a role with training opportunities, Beaumont warned employers not to be “fooled into thinking graduates don’t want development.”

“These factors remain important for attracting and retaining graduates,” she said. “The difference is graduates today have bigger, more basic needs that have to be satisfied first.”