Majority of UK employers have had to cancel work experience due to Covid-19

Christel Deskins

Photograph: aberCPC/Alamy Stock Photo UK students hoping to enter the jobs market have had work experience placements postponed, interviews cancelled and job offers withdrawn as businesses struggle in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, a new survey has revealed. Three fifths of employers (61%) say they have had to cancel […]

<span>Photograph: aberCPC/Alamy Stock Photo</span>
Photograph: aberCPC/Alamy Stock Photo

UK students hoping to enter the jobs market have had work experience placements postponed, interviews cancelled and job offers withdrawn as businesses struggle in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, a new survey has revealed.

Three fifths of employers (61%) say they have had to cancel some or all of their work experience placements, with many warning they will be hiring fewer or no graduates in the next year.

A YouGov poll for the Sutton Trust social mobility charity found that small- and medium-sized businesses in Britain were the most likely to be turning away graduates, with almost half (49%) cancelling all internships and work experience placements, compared to just under a third (29%) of bigger employers.

Almost two in five (39%) graduate employers said they expected to hire fewer graduates or none at all in the next 12 months, according to the poll of 1,000 British businesses, and just under half (48%) said there are likely to be fewer work experience opportunities in their businesses.

The findings confirm graduate fears about the impact of Covid on their immediate career prospects. A companion YouthSight poll of 900 students, also for the Sutton Trust, found that almost half (46%) of current undergraduates believe the pandemic has had a negative effect on their chances of finding a job.

Just under a fifth (18%) of students surveyed said that they had had work-experience placements cancelled or postponed, while more than one in 10 (11%) have had interviews cancelled and 4% have had a job offer withdrawn.

With fewer job opportunities available in the aftermath of lockdown, the Sutton Trust says promoting social mobility and fair access must remain priorities for employers

Sir Peter Lampl, the founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: “It is crystal clear that young people will bear the brunt for years to come of the massive downturn caused by Covid-19 and young people from poorer backgrounds will be most affected.

“Employers will need policies in place to allow everyone a fair chance of being recruited to the lower number of graduate jobs available. As internships and work-experience placements are declining, employers need to move their programmes online. We need to act now to make sure that all young people have opportunities to enter the labour market.”

Labour’s shadow minister for young people, Cat Smith, said the government had been too slow to act on youth unemployment. “This report demonstrates that there is a clear gap between what the government has promised, and the availability of work experience placements being offered by employers.

“The government must drop its one-size-fits-all approach to youth unemployment and work with local authorities to encourage businesses to take on and train young people.”

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