Majority of graduates believe the pandemic has widened job inequality, poll finds

Employers have been urged to be more proactive about how they support applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds

The majority of young people believe inequality in the UK jobs market has increased since the start of the pandemic, a survey has found.

The poll of 2,000 students, conducted by Bright Network, found 77 per cent believed Covid has widened inequalities for graduates entering employment, while just half (50 per cent) believed that the graduate recruitment market was inclusive of talent from all backgrounds.

The findings have led to calls for employers and the government to do more to boost social mobility in the UK.

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James Uffindell, founder & CEO of Bright Network, cautioned that the last two years had “created a persistent decline in social mobility” for younger workers.

“Disadvantaged university students have felt this pandemic scarring acutely, often lacking the family or friend network to help them secure jobs after university,” he said, urging firms to be more proactive in how they support applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds at different stages of the application process.

When asked what made a potential employer stand out, the majority (73 per cent) said simply getting in touch with candidates when roles open or about to close made firms stand out, while 67 per cent said providing advice on upskilling.

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Almost all students polled (95 per cent) said they believed there could be increasing communication between universities and graduate employers to help tailor learning to better prepare young people for work.

The findings come as parliament prepares to have its third reading of a new Skills Bill today, which will include an amendment from Conservative MP Robert Halfon that would make it a legal requirement for students to have access to vocational careers advice in schools.

The amendment would see an existing provision in the 2017 Technical and Further Education Act known as the Baker Clause, which gives technical colleges and other training providers access to students to discuss non-academic routes to work, become legally enforceable.

Stephen Evans, chief executive of the Learning and Work Institute, said the proposal to strengthen the Baker Clause could “help ensure young people are more aware of the full range of options open to them, including excellent vocational education and apprenticeships”.

“I hope this could help close the gaps we have in participation in education, particularly technical education and work-based learning, compared to other countries as well as helping employers better meet their skills needs,” said Evans.

The amendment is also supported by the CIPD. “It is critical that more young people receive advice and guidance on alternative pathways to higher education, such as apprenticeships, while in the education system,” said Lizzie Crowley, senior skills adviser at the professional body.