Head of Higher Education Intelligence for Prospects at Jisc
The jobs market for graduates has been severely hit by the pandemic and lockdown, but not as badly as the non-graduate labour market. And health and science seem, at the moment, to be amongst the least badly-affected sectors of all.
Health is obviously in serious demand, particularly as we entered the pandemic short of pretty much every kind of health professional imaginable. Data from January 2021 has health vacancies running at about 92% of normal levels for the time of year and they’ve been at or around those levels for months.
But science has also fared relatively well – currently at 90% of last year’s vacancy levels and not obviously weakening in recent weeks. So, why is that?
Pharmaceuticals is a very important employer in the science industry and, for obvious reasons, there is a lot going on in the sector right now. Although it’s not exactly easy to run a lab in a socially distanced way, the rise of virtual working benefits highly technological companies with skilled workforces who can adapt easily. Even in manufacturing, nearly half of businesses have adopted virtual working and are set to maintain it.
Brexit has also had, and will have, an impact. But for new entrants to science careers, an environment where businesses need to recruit, but have less access to overseas workers, might make UK citizens more desirable in the labour market.
Similar forces are in play in engineering, with vacancies currently running at 70% of the usual annual levels, but where worker shortages have, and remain, a considerable issue. Whilst IT is currently reporting vacancies at 86% of the level this time last year, and a workforce that has moved with relatively few issues to virtual working. Last week over two thirds of the IT industry workforce was reported as working solely remotely.
So the prospects for graduates in these industries are not where we’d like them to be, and most analysts don’t expect them to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2022 at the earliest, but to hold a healthcare or science qualification in the current labour market is to be in a much better position than most – your target industries are still operating, still hiring, and will be crucial to post-pandemic recovery efforts.