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Graduate recruitment back on the rise as third of employers increase intake

29 Apr 2021 By Francis Churchill

Research finds businesses are confident the worst of the pandemic is over, as experts say hiring and development will see a ‘more permanent shift’ to online

The majority of the UK’s largest graduate employers have either stabilised or increased their recruitment this year, a poll has found.

The survey of 135 employers by the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) found that more than a third (36 per cent) were increasing the number of graduates they were taking on this year compared to 2020 – including 18 per cent that increased their intake by 10 per cent or more.

Similarly, almost half (48 per cent) of the employers polled said they were recruiting the same number of graduates as the previous year.



Just 16 per cent of those polled said they were cutting graduate recruitment – down from 44 per cent that said they had scaled down graduate recruitment last year because of the pandemic.

However, the survey did find shrinkage in specific sectors, including retail and FMCG, which saw graduate recruitment drop by 38 per cent this year.

The research also found employers were hiring more school leavers than last year. Nearly a third (31 per cent) were increasing recruitment, 57 per cent were hiring the same and just 11 per cent were reducing the number of school leavers they were hiring. This was down from 44 per cent of firms that said they were hiring fewer school leavers last year.


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The picture was similar with internships. More than half (56 per cent) of firms were recruiting the same number of interns, while 25 per cent were recruiting more. Just 20 per cent were hiring fewer, down from 38 per cent that said they were cutting opportunities last year.

Stephen Isherwood, chief executive of the ISE, said that while employers were optimistic that the UK was reaching the end of the pandemic, they were less confident that the economic crisis was over.

“Early indicators show that the market is on the upturn and there will be more employment opportunities for young people this year,” said Isherwood. “While the jobs market remains tough, students need to keep working on their skills and engaging with employers.”

Isherwood added that student recruitment and development would operate differently going forward. “Two years ago the majority of how we recruited and developed young people was largely in person and nobody is talking about going back to this,” he said. “The crisis has forced more employers to adopt technology and we’re already seeing a more permanent shift to online and blended techniques as they realise the benefits.” 

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