Professional support and guidance is vital as students and graduates re-evaluate their careers due to the pandemic, reports Prospects at Jisc.
Prospects surveyed more than 6,500 students and graduates to find out how COVID-19 is impacting their career decisions and experiences.
More than a quarter of respondents have changed their career plans due to the pandemic and 37% are still uncertain about what they will do.
Students and graduates cite a variety of reasons for switching plans. Many have been inspired by people who are actively involved in supporting the pandemic response, while others wanted to escape struggling industries such as travel and hospitality.
Some respondents are looking at apprenticeships as an alternative to study, so they can start to earn money. Three quarters of respondents have looked for an apprenticeship or training scheme in the last 12 months.
Training and development opportunities, career progression and work/life balance are the top three most important factors students and graduates cite when considering their career options.
Prospects also asked about the challenges being faced. Those at school say taking care of their mental health is their biggest challenge followed by studying at home. College and university students and graduates say that keeping motivated is their main challenge, followed by taking care of their mental health.
Nabilah Thagia, 17, from Bolton, is studying for her A-levels at college. She says:
“I set my sights on engineering in year 10, but had second thoughts because there were so many other options available that I enjoyed.
"Reading about the amazing contributions engineers have been able to make during the pandemic, through manufacturing ventilators, PPE and statistically modelling the spread of COVID-19 definitely helped change my mind.
“I’ve decided to pursue engineering as a career, so will be undertaking a degree apprenticeship. This gives me the best of both worlds as I can gain valuable work experience and industry-recognised qualifications at the same time. The degree apprenticeship schemes in the UK are of a very high quality so I'm really excited.”
Charlie Ball, head of higher education intelligence for Prospects at Jisc, says:
“The developments and research in health and social care and other industries are making people see those careers with a fresh perspective. These careers can be both challenging and rewarding, and they will have certain requirements, so it’s vital to seek professional advice and guidance.
“The expert support available from university and college careers services will help those feeling lost or uncertain of what to do next.
"With challenging job prospects and students off campus, many young people are naturally feeling vulnerable and isolated. It's vital that we find more ways to deliver career advice and support to young people, particularly those in under-represented groups who are at most risk of disadvantage.
"We must remember that although students and graduates have shown remarkable resilience and adaptability during the last year, the job and career prospects of the young have been hit disproportionately hard by this pandemic and they deserve the best support we can offer.”
Prospects is expanding its Future You programme in 2021 with more events, content, videos and podcasts as well as more virtual opportunities to bring students and graduates together with employers and careers advisors.