Student expectations of first salary have dropped




Bright Network








The COVID-19 pandemic has decreased graduate expectations about earning potential by £1,620 since the start of the year, from £27,600 in January to £25,980 now according to new research from Bright Network, the leading platform that unites the next generation of bright talent with global employers and fast growth businesses.

Despite the government’s pledge to extend the Kickstart Scheme – which offers employers £2,000 for every new young worker taken on – the research from Bright Network’s quarterly Talent Tracker has found that COVID-19 continues to hamper graduate expectations about career prospects, with 65% of graduates not confident about securing a graduate role, and 85% feeling more under pressure over their career search due to uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

Over half (56%) of those under more pressure were worried about the scarcity of jobs due to cuts at big companies, such as those announced by the Arcadia Group and Sainsbury’s in recent weeks, and more than a third (37%) of graduates have said the pandemic has now changed their thinking about the career paths they’re keen to pursue.

With the UK announcing positive news last week that it has become the first country in world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for widespread use, Bright Network’s data shows that the arrival of a viable coronavirus vaccine has not increased confidence in graduates about employment opportunities, with only 1 in 5 (21%) admitting a potential vaccine has increased their confidence in finding a graduate role – indicating that graduates acknowledge that economic recovery from coronavirus is still likely to be slow.

Despite these challenges, the study finds that undergraduates are investing more in their own skills to boost their attractiveness in the jobs market: 90% are keen for graduate employers to support the student population with upskilling during university, and over a third (37%) are more interested in advice about how they can upskill for their future career than whether firms are hiring right now (27%).

A further two-thirds (60%) of the UK’s students are considering further study after they finish their undergraduate degree as they look to strengthen their competitiveness in the graduate market as the pandemic continues into 2021.

Research during the course of 2020 has found that students with socio-economic advantages are much better placed to secure a graduate role than those without these advantages. There are signs that the pandemic will create further disadvantage:

  • Talent Tracker finds that despite the overall drop in salary expectations, those who are privately educated still expect to earn an average of £2,790 more in their first job than their state-educated peers – £27,670 compared to £24,880 for those state educated.
  • Research* identified that those educated at private school were 21% more likely to say they have the right network around them to aid their job search than state school-educated students.
  • The same research identified that those who were the first generation to go to university are much more likely to have experienced challenges around lack of workspace and access to technology during lockdown, with 70% of first generation students citing lack of adequate workspace during lockdown vs only 59% of those whose parents had gone to university, and 42% citing consistently poor internet connection vs 38% of those whose parents had gone to university

James Uffindell, Founder & CEO of Bright Network, commented: “Our Talent Tracker continues to highlight the real and long-lasting impacts the pandemic will have on the UK’s young people looking to begin their careers. Students’ persistent concerns about fewer employment prospects, despite the great news about the vaccine roll-out, tell us that the challenges students face to secure the right graduate job will persist beyond the pandemic – we know that the economy won’t bounce back immediately.

“Our study highlights that the impacts are not felt evenly across groups, and it is essential we work with universities and employers to ensure everyone has equal opportunity when it comes to job opportunities, and that we provide the support students are telling us they are seeking from employers right now.

“It’s imperative that as we look ahead to 2021 and a recovery from the pandemic, we ensure the next generation are given the best skills training and opportunities to help build back the economy we need”

Research from Bright Network in September this year*



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