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2020 Graduates Still Struggle to Find Work, Survey Finds

April 20, 2021

By Kevin Marrs, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

The impact of the pandemic on college recruitment has been significant.  According to a recently released survey by the online employment website Monster, nearly half (45%) of the class of 2020 are still looking for work.  This impact is likely familiar to those who had the misfortune of graduating college during past recessions.

The survey of 1,000 recent and impending U.S. college graduates uncovered other significant findings:

  • 85% of recent college graduates indicate that their career goals have been set back by a month or more, and 29% expect a delay of over six months.
  • Three-quarters of grads (73%) and 63% of non-college Gen Zs had to take a job that didn’t fit their career goals.  Many (45%) suggest that financial considerations led them to taking work inconsistent with their career goals.
  • More than three-quarters of graduates of color (77%) expect a lower starting salary as the result of COVID-19, significantly more than the 65% of their white peers who say the same. The gap is even starker among Hispanic grads (85%) to non-Hispanic grads (66%).
  • Nearly a third (30%) of college grads intend to take on gig, freelance, or temp work until they get a full-time job—and 23% intend to keep at it even after finding a full-time job. Similar numbers of non-college grads (26%) plan to freelance until they find full-time work, and 24% will keep freelancing after that.
  • Not surprisingly, more than eight in ten recent college graduates have concerns about positive job experiences and struggle with the lack of in-person coworker interactions.

What is impacting college recruitment?  Obviously, the economic fallout from the pandemic has upended the hiring plans for many organizations.  However, the COVID-19 pandemic has also caused many employers to suspend or eliminate their internship programs, a significant pipeline for new college graduates.

According to ASE’s 2021 Salaries for Co-Op Students and Recent College Graduates Survey nearly a third (27%) had placed their internship / co-op program on hold due to current economic considerations, a 10% increase from a year ago.  There was also evidence that employers may be pausing spring recruitment of interns.  A third of employers indicated they were unsure when they would actively recruit for interns, and just 12% would be actively recruiting in the spring.

To be sure, the pandemic will have lasting implications for recent college graduates.  Employers should take care to examine these trends with an eye towards its impact on their own organization.  Specifically, employers should evaluate their succession planning programs to determine current and future skill gaps.  This pause in college recruitment could have long-term consequences for future growth.

Additionally, employers who understand why pay disparities exist likely understand that it is often starting rates that drive these disparities.  The allure of getting a new hire at a discount can lead to issues in later years.

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