Is 2020 the worst year ever for engineering graduates entering the job market?
The impact of Covid-19 on the UK job market is widespread and very few sectors have been unaffected. In this article we ask will 2020 prove to be the worst year in recent memory for thousands of recent graduates looking for their first role? If so, what do they need to do to get noticed and get hired?
As a recruitment consultant specialising in helping job seekers find permanent roles, I have spent years helping recent graduates find their first job in the civil engineering market, predominantly with SME’s and large multi-national engineering consultancies. Under normal market conditions we see two “graduate seasons”. The first is around the end of February through until the end of March, as those who have undertaken a Master’s degree, complete their course and start looking for work. The second is late July until September when those who studied an undergraduate degree finish their university course.
However, 2020 has been anything but normal. As soon as the UK was sent into lockdown at the end of March, the first graduate season, for Master’s graduates, was cancelled. Engineering companies in the UK went into survival mode with their focus on how long lockdown would last, the impact on cash flow, which employees to furlough and more recently how they could get their work force back to the office safely. Hundreds of graduates had their offers rescinded and interviews cancelled as companies tried to consolidate their positions in unprecedented times.
The second graduate season has not fared much better. The volume of graduate vacancies in the market has reduced significantly. Large consultancies are making redundancies and are therefore unable to run graduate schemes as they had done in previous years. The small to medium sized companies that have proved resilient to the effects of the pandemic and are arguably in a better position to take on a graduate this year, are struggling to work out how best to onboard and train someone with no industry experience when much, if not all, of the office is working from home.
As the UK gets to grip with living and working under the constant threat of further lockdowns and a prolonged period of remote working, what tack can we expect engineering companies to take with their graduate recruitment?
We know that engineering companies need to take on junior staff (graduates, technicians, apprentices) as a way to grow their business. This drives profitability and helps create a stable staff structure that ensures more experienced employees can progress with their careers. The good news is that as a result we expect graduate recruitment to restart in line with wider economic recovery. This is likely to be after the furlough scheme ends in October 2020 with roles coming to market at the beginning of 2021. We expect to see larger companies restart their graduate intake schemes at the same time.
What can graduates do to stand out?
When graduate recruitment returns, we know one thing for sure, it will be a very competitive market. So, if you are a recent graduate, there are a few things you can do to that will help you get your CV to the top of the pile.
Strong opening statement / profile: At the top of you CV you should write a detailed explanation about what you have studied (civils, structures, mechanical etc.), which discipline you want to go into (highways, rail, building etc.) and why. This demonstrates to the person reviewing the CV that you are not only qualified for the role, but you have a genuine interest in the type of engineering they do. Employers do not want someone “looking for experience” they want a candidate who has researched and chosen a specific discipline.
Format your CV correctly: Following your opening statement / profile you should outline in detail any relevant experience (summer work, internship, year in industry) in chronological order with the most recent first. The same should be done with your education. You spent a lot of money on your degree make sure you write about it in detail and in an easy to read format.
Work with a reputable and specialist recruiter: Find an experienced recruiter who specialises in your chosen field and ask him/her to help you find a job. You can tell who is a
good recruitment consultant by asking him/her about their specialist market. If they can give you a detailed answer about which clients are hiring, the kind of roles and in which location, they will be well placed to help you. Do not sign up with too many companies, one or two will be enough to ensure you cover the entire market.
It is clear, that as a member of the current generation of engineering graduates you are entering the job market at one of the most difficult periods in recent times. However, it is my opinion that graduate recruitment will return in the next six to nine months and that those who want to work in this field will get the opportunity. If you present yourself correctly and use recruitment experts there is no reason why Covid-19 will be nothing more than a small bump in your road to a successful career.
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