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Ruya Yonak
7 min read

How employers can engage with young talent as the cost of living rises

The cost of living is hampering young people’s career prospects and looks set to deepen long-standing challenges employers have in reaching and attracting entry level talent.

The latest report from Totaljobs, in partnership with Career Ready, shows that due to the rising cost of living, school leavers are confronted with growing concerns around money which threatens their career aspirations. This is having a negative impact on social mobility, with financial factors disproportionately affecting those from lower socio-economic backgrounds. The report offers insight into young people’s limitations and employers’ expectations.

‘The Covid Generation’ feels left behind when it comes to their career prospects, while employers struggle to hire and retain entry level talent.

In collaboration with Career Ready, Totaljobs surveyed upcoming school leavers, parents, recent graduates, and employers to understand the disconnect employers are facing when it comes to recruiting and retaining young people in the UK. Our Early Careers report aims to bridge the gap between employers and young talent while acknowledging the importance of levelling the playing field for socio-economically disadvantaged families.

Key Findings

  • 83% of young people say Covid-19 has had a negative impact on their career prospects, half of 16-18-year-olds reporting not feeling confident about securing a job in their desired field because of the impact of Covid-19 and the rising cost of living.
  • Most young people (61%) are still considering going to university after school, of which 73% are in private education compared to 59% who go to state school. However, over a third (34%) of parents say they can’t afford to support their children through university.
  • Only 10% are planning to do an apprenticeship despite 57% saying they are a great way to learn and 40% saying they lead to early financial independence.
  • 54% of employers have struggled to hire entry level talent over the last two years. However, 37% of businesses still prioritise candidates with a university background.

    The impact of Covid-19 and the cost of living on young people

    Most young people have been impacted negatively by Covid-19 and the rising cost of living that followed. From missing in-person learning opportunities (91%), to being prevented from participating in work experience (91%), they lack confidence in building their future.

    Although university is still a top choice for most (61%), it is not an option for almost one in four (24%) 16-18-year-olds because of the associated costs. Our research offers insights into the experiences of young people and puts forward recommendations for employers to attract and retain early talent long term.

    Employers struggle to find and retain entry level talent

    More than half (54%) of employers say they struggled to hire entry level talent over the last two years. Strict hiring criteria exacerbate this challenge, as 37% of employers require entry level staff to have completed university study and 24% going further to say they require at least a 2:1 grade. Only 29% of employers provide graduate programmes and 28% offer degree apprenticeships.

    However, there are some positive shifts as well. 84% of employers who do not currently offer any entry level options plan to introduce them in the next two years. Furthermore, 58% of businesses reviewed their entry criteria and 20% introduced apprenticeships last year.

    Young people’s options for entering the workforce

    Half (48%) of the students and recent graduates reported lacking useful career advice at school, with 67% saying the advice is geared towards university. Consequently, 61% of 16-18 year-olds said they were considering university after school, with 42% reporting they believed a university degree made them more likely to get a good job.

    However, 53% of young people believe that a degree does not give them a head start unless they have been to a top-ranking university. This assumption is founded on the exclusionary criteria of some entry level roles, which can even prevent recent graduates and school leavers with high potential from applying.

    Young people are also influenced by teachers and parents, who encourage getting a university education. Yet, over a third (34%) of parents say they can’t afford to support their children during their studies, demonstrating how a university degree is no longer a viable option for some families.

    Although most (57%) young people think apprenticeships are a great learning opportunity, only 10% of school-leavers are considering them. The main reason behind this is the miseducation and perception of apprenticeships. In fact, almost half (45%) of graduates said they believe that graduate schemes are only for those who went to top universities. Furthermore, 22% of 16–18-year-olds believe that people, including employers, look down on apprenticeships as a route into work.

    Widening recruitment pathways to attract young talent

    Our research highlights the importance of offering alternative routes – such as work experience and apprenticeships – as a pathway to hiring young talent, as well as the importance of adjusting the criteria for entry level jobs to grow and diversify talent pools. With the contribution of our early careers expert partner, Career Ready, we outlined the tried and tested methods for hiring and developing young talent.

    As the current economic climate hinders young people’s chances of pursuing a university education, employers need to take action to ensure vacancies and promotions are accessible to those with the right aptitude and experience, regardless of background.

    At the same time, employers can retain new hires and grow their workforce by supporting their future development and promoting a positive workplace where they can pursue their careers.

    Download Early Careers: An employer’s guide to discovering and developing future talent, to learn more about our research and suggestions for employers to support early careers and social mobility prospects for young people.

    Milkround – Bring your entry level vacancies to the forefront

    With over 613,000 active candidates and more than 20 years of experience in early careers recruitment, Milkround is the go-to student and graduate job platform.

    Whether your business is looking to target students just starting university or recent graduates, Milkround will help you strike the right message, optimise your campaign, and stand out in front of talented candidates. You can advertise roles locally for individual apprenticeship roles, or regionally/nationally for larger recruitment drives.

    Equality Boost – Widen your candidate reach and provide equal opportunities

    46% of graduates believe graduate schemes are only for those from a privileged or higher socio-economic background, which has prevented them from applying for these roles.

    With Equality Boost, you can not only target people from a range of diverse backgrounds, but also showcase that you are an inclusive employer, to encourage people from all backgrounds to apply. Harnessing a unique blend of data science, Equality Boost pinpoints when, where and how to reach the talent you need by demographic, location, and interest information. This means you can serve the right ad to the right audience, diversifying your talent pool in the process.