Shifting priorities


By Jackie Grisdale

The context and backdrop of 2020 & 2021 will undeniably have a profound and lasting effect on the futures of many people. Particularly young people, many of which have been denied the ‘typical’ experiences enjoyed by generations before them. It is no surprise students priorities are shifting, particularly decisions about careers and the workplace.

Many employers have seen a noticeable difference in their grad recruitment pipelines. Following a significant surge in applications last season, volumes are beginning to subside to levels seen in 2019 – for some employers, they have even fallen to below pre-pandemic levels.

There is much talk about COVID-19 prompting candidates to seek more purposeful careers. And while the pandemic has certainly focused the minds of young people considering their next destination, this particular tide of change began before the pandemic.

High Fliers research shows there has been an increasing proportion of graduates at the UK’s top universities who were keen on ‘having a job that allows you to give something back to society’ for some time – it has increased in priority for seven years, making it students’ second-highest priority when considering various aspects of their first graduate job.

Decisions about careers are indeed also being influenced by the pandemic. Our research highlights that levels of confidence and optimism are playing an important role. Those who felt anxious about the future expressed higher levels of concern, by more than 20 percentage points across a number of issues.

  • 48% of those who felt anxious about the future said they were concerned about having the right skills to succeed compared to 31% overall
  • 51% of those who felt anxious about the future were concerned about their education & academic attainment compared to 29% overall
  • 51% of those who felt anxious about the future were also concerned about their future employment opportunities compared to 30% overall.
  • 40% of those with a high concern about future employment opportunities, or money / financial hardship, said this concern was influencing the way they were making decisions about education and careers.

We also asked young people in our research if what they find important with regards who and where they would like to work had changed in the last 12 months?

43% of them said yes.

How? For many, it’s made them realise what was important in life and opened their eyes to bigger world issues. For others it has prompted them to explore different career paths and caused some to change their mind completely about the sector they want to work in.

However, shifting career priorities is just part of the story.

There have been far fewer opportunities for students to get meaningful insights into the world of work to help inform their decisions and develop their employability skills recently. Students are lacking confidence as a result. Not just in the future. But also, in their decisions about the best career for them, the best employer for them and if their skills and capabilities are good enough to succeed in application processes.

Thousands of young people are missing out on fantastic opportunities to fulfil their aspirations and potential as a result, and we all have an opportunity to help.

We need to ask ourselves:

  • Do we really understand what our audience need and want from us?
  • Are we communicating our organisation’s purpose in a way which will appeal and connect with the talent we want to attract?
  • Are we acknowledging the impact of the pandemic on our talent pipeline?

Download our full report and if you’d like to talk to us about attracting and engaging young people about apprentice and graduate opportunities, don’t hesitate to get in touch.