About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 3393-3399
Publication year: 2020
ISBN: 978-84-09-24232-0
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2020.0765

Conference name: 13th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 9-10 November, 2020
Location: Online Conference

GRADUATING IN A PANDEMIC CONTEXT AND RELATIVE EMPLOYABILITY: WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED FROM GRADUATES’ STATEMENTS IN THE MEDIA?

F. Suleman

ISCTE-IUL (PORTUGAL)
Universities have been pressured to prepare graduates with skills that fit labour market imperatives and foster employability. The concept of relative employability emerged to indicate that the interplay between supply and demand affects the success in the labour market. It is widely accepted among scholars that graduating in the context of recessions has long-lasting effects on employment conditions and earnings. The pandemic context has decimated the labour market and created unprecedent difficulties to graduates.

This study explores online press news (n=20) that include statements of soon-to-be graduates (n= ±40) on the difficulties faced or perceived in the hostile labour market in European and non-European countries. These are under age 25, mostly masters degree holders in hard (e.g. engineering, statistics, biology) and soft (e.g. economics, arts and design, political science) fields of education. Preliminary findings indicate four different types of situations regarding employability of class of 2020, as they are labelled.

The first group comprises graduates which perceived employability is, or became, very low and some blame themselves for lesser or no job prospects after graduation. These seems to be hopeless graduates. A second group report cancellation of previously agreed contracts or internships. Some of them had recruitment interviews and were expected to start the job immediately after graduation. The data show that the prospect employers simultaneously suspended hiring and laid-off current employees. A third group clusters soon-to-be graduates with suspended contracts. Employers maintain job offers but pushed back the start date. The major apprehension of students is about the uncertain and unpredictable future that leaves them in limbo. Finally, some graduates were hired but employers transformed their job in remote work. This happens especially in the service sector, notably finance and accounting.

These different situations have multidimensional consequences in their lives. Psychological distress is widely referred indicating that young people are anxious and getting depressed. Others underline side effects of unemployment, notably conditions to renew the visa for migrants; economic burden for the family; return to parents’ home; or uncertainty regarding seeking out accommodation in the host region. Nevertheless, many maintain a positive attitude and develop strategies to reduce the impacts of economic hardship. Some have engaged in volunteer activities to help people in the pandemic context. Others accepted job to work remotely or changed occupation to accept any available activity. These are however few cases since opportunities are in fact scarce.

There is a widespread opinion that this economic recession will affect deeply and differently the employment and careers of class of 2020. In the current context, jobs for graduates are falling faster than for non-graduates. The major hiring industries of graduates have been hardly hit by sanitary crisis, as is the case of tourism and retail trade sectors. However, it is expected that STEM fields will face lower difficulties and will be less probable in low-paying jobs. Higher education institutions are trying to ease the transition but struggle against employers that are changing hiring plans or freezing all hiring, cancelling internship programmes, and rescinding agreed internship or job offers. Efforts are therefore required to avoid that whole generation is lost.
@InProceedings{SULEMAN2020GRA,
author = {Suleman, F.},
title = {GRADUATING IN A PANDEMIC CONTEXT AND RELATIVE EMPLOYABILITY: WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED FROM GRADUATES’ STATEMENTS IN THE MEDIA?},
series = {13th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation},
booktitle = {ICERI2020 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-09-24232-0},
issn = {2340-1095},
doi = {10.21125/iceri.2020.0765},
url = {http://dx.doi.org/10.21125/iceri.2020.0765},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Online Conference},
month = {9-10 November, 2020},
year = {2020},
pages = {3393-3399}}
TY - CONF
AU - F. Suleman
TI - GRADUATING IN A PANDEMIC CONTEXT AND RELATIVE EMPLOYABILITY: WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED FROM GRADUATES’ STATEMENTS IN THE MEDIA?
SN - 978-84-09-24232-0/2340-1095
DO - 10.21125/iceri.2020.0765
PY - 2020
Y1 - 9-10 November, 2020
CI - Online Conference
JO - 13th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
JA - ICERI2020 Proceedings
SP - 3393
EP - 3399
ER -
F. Suleman (2020) GRADUATING IN A PANDEMIC CONTEXT AND RELATIVE EMPLOYABILITY: WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED FROM GRADUATES’ STATEMENTS IN THE MEDIA?, ICERI2020 Proceedings, pp. 3393-3399.
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