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Firms cut back on graduate roles as Covid jobs crisis continues 

Many of those leaving university this summer, having paid tens of thousands for the privilege, could find themselves struggling to find jobs
KPMG usually has hundreds of graduate roles but the market is very competitive. Image credit: Paul Wilkinson / Flickr

Businesses have made cuts to their graduate schemes as the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic continues.

According to ITV News, which surveyed 146 of the top employers in the UK, 30 per cent of the 71 that responded had made cuts to their graduate schemes since 2019. 

Many of those leaving university this summer, having paid tens of thousands for the privilege, could find themselves struggling to find roles or competing with graduates from last year who are still seeking opportunities. 

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In February, The Big Issue heard from Bec Oakes, 25, from Burscough, West Lancashire, who was working in a local supermarket to keep herself afloat. 

Oakes found many of the coveted graduate schemes she wanted to apply for put on hold. 

“I got quite far in the application process for the BBC graduate scheme in Manchester, which I really had my heart set on,” she said. 

“And then, all of a sudden, I got an email saying that due to the pandemic it wasn’t going forward for the year ahead, and at that point I was like, ‘Oh, crap, what do I do now?’”

“It seems to be people of university age and the five or so years that follow who are getting completely forgotten about,” she added. 

The latest monthly unemployment figures released this week show a small monthly decrease in the number of payrolled employees in total in March 2021 – with 56,000 fewer people were in work from the month before. 

Those aged 16-24, who are more likely to work in industries such as hospitality that have been shut down by successive lockdowns, account for nearly two-thirds of job losses since the beginning of the pandemic.

The percentage of all young people who were not in education, employment or training was estimated to be 11.6 per cent in the latest figures

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Kevin Hogarth, chief people officer at accountancy firm KPMG, which usually recruits more than a thousand graduates every year, told ITV the company had taken on fewer university leavers in 2020. 

“The job market is more competitive. There certainly are higher levels of unemployment. I think that the number of opportunities that organisations are offering are starting to increase again,” he said. 

“We certainly are going to be returning back to the similar sorts of levels of numbers, we’re recruiting a thousand graduates, around 250 apprentices during the course of this year.

“But we do know that we’ve already seen something near 50 per cent increase in the number of applications that we received in the first three months of this recruitment season.

“So it is a very competitive job market and therefore, graduates, those who are interested in apprentices, have got some pretty stiff competition for the opportunities that are available.”

The Big Issue’s Ride Out Recession Alliance has brought together 30 organisations to come up with fresh ideas to tackle the crisis. 

The RORA Jobs and Training platform was launched in January as a “one-stop-shop” to help people get back on their feet. It includes  a free three-month digital subscription to The Big Issue, a weekly newsletter with tips on job hunting and access to free or discounted training, 

On The Big Issue Jobs site, there is also the option to search through hundreds of thousands of jobs and access tips and advice on how to land your next position.

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