The impact of the pandemic on early careers

How to address the issues faced in the student labour market and encourage early career options?

Internship and placement opportunities are a common way for both students and graduates to gain work experience, discover the professional world, and define what they want to do next. They can also be very valuable for career changers or people who have been out of the job market for longer periods. Employers, on the other side, benefit from running internship or placement programmes by getting early access to emerging talent.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, it has been very difficult to continue providing the same volume of opportunities for students while also adjusting to new remote working and hybrid environments. As a result, we have seen a decline in the number of internships and placements offered by employers in the last two years. Work experience vacancies advertised on declined 38% in 2020, compared with 2019 (source: here).  Students have undoubtedly suffered from this and are now looking to gain more experience to compensate for their gap in work experience.

Prospects run a survey in early 2021 to find out about its audience’s career plans and understand how the pandemic has affected their decisions. The results of the survey showed that:

  • The biggest struggle for university students when searching for jobs was having the required work experience for the vacancies they are interested in, with 64% citing it as an issue.
  • For students who have managed to undertake some work experience, three quarters found it useful in developing new skills.
  • Paid, longer-term and face-to-face experiences were most useful.
  • Despite the pandemic, work experience was predominantly face-to-face.
  • The majority of student work experience was unpaid.

What is concerning in the survey is not only the fact that unpaid work experience continues to be a feature of the student labour market but also the fact that underrepresented groups have been affected by this more than others – especially women and minority ethnic students.

Did you know?

The Equate CareerHub website was created to help STEM organisations across Scotland connect with women studying, working or looking to work in STEM. Employers can advertise a wide range of job or training opportunities and benefit from a language review of their job description for any gendered language or unconscious bias – this is to ensure they can attract more women applicants and thus widen their talent pool.

To encourage early career options and help employers connect with women students, we advertise any paid summer internships or short placements for free on Equate CareerHub.

If you offer paid summer internships for STEM students, please reach out and consider Equate CareerHub service in your recruitment strategy.

  • You will be able to promote your listing(s) for free (this includes summer internships, short placements, as well as upskilling or reskilling opportunities)
  • You will learn more about Equate’s language review service and the importance of using inclusive language in your recruitment materials
  • You will be visible to Equate students’ network – supported by student and staff champions across several academic institutions in Scotland
  • You will access Equate women’s community and our partners’ network – and thus will gain exposure amongst other groups including women students, professionals, career changers or returners.

More information about Equate CareerHub service can be found here.

To find out more, please contact us at: