New research examines the impact of Covid-19 on access to the workplace. 

  • Almost half of current undergraduates (46%) believe the pandemic has had a negative effect on their chances of finding a job
  • Over three-fifths (61%) of employers offering work experience placements have had to cancel.
  • 39% of graduate employers say they expect to hire fewer graduates or none at all in the next 12 months.

Students and employers are worried about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the job market, according to the latest Covid-19 impact brief from the Sutton Trust. The research looks at the immediate effect on young people entering the job market, as well as the long term impact on opportunities available to them.

Polling of 895 students by YouthSight found that almost half (46%) said the pandemic has had a negative impact on their ability to find a job. 18% said that they had had work experience placements cancelled or postponed, with 11% having interviews cancelled and 4% having a job offer withdrawn.

The report also includes polling of 1,005 HR decision makers in British businesses by YouGov, which found that over three-fifths (61%) of employers offering work experience  had cancelled some or all of their placements. Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) were the most likely to have cancelled all internships and work experience placements, with half (49%) doing so, compared to just under a third (29%) of larger employers.

Almost half of these employers (48%) expect that there will be fewer work experience opportunities in their businesses over the next year and 39% of graduate employers report they are likely to be hiring fewer graduates or none at all in the next 12 months.

Whilst there are expected to be fewer job opportunities in the aftermath of lockdown, promoting social mobility and fair access remain priorities for employers. Reflecting a recent focus on inequalities in the context of the pandemic, just under a third (29%) of the employers surveyed said social mobility and socio-economic diversity would be more of a priority in the next two years after the pandemic, while just a small proportion (11%) said it would become less of a priority.

Today’s research comes alongside new guidance for employers, compiled by the Sutton Trust, on how they can champion social mobility in their workplace. In order to mitigate the impact of Covid-19, the guidance offers a series of recommendations to employers:

  • In the short-term, they could move work experience, internships, outreach and recruitment online where possible, ensuring this is accessible to those with limited access to the internet and devices. This provides a unique opportunity to open up such programmes to young people from a wider range of geographical backgrounds.
  • In the long-term, they could take into account that missed time from school and the cancellation of exams will have a bigger impact on disadvantaged students.

Sir Peter Lampl, founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust, said:

“It is crystal clear that young people will bear the brunt for years to come of the massive downturn caused by Covid-19 – and young people from poorer backgrounds will be most affected.

“As our latest research shows, 49% of students believe the pandemic has affected their chances of getting a job and 40% of employers say they’ll be hiring fewer graduates, or none at all.

“Employers will need policies in place to allow everyone a fair chance of being recruited to the lower number of graduate jobs available. As internships and work experience placements are declining, employers need to move their programmes online. We need to act now to make sure that all young people have opportunities to enter the labour market.”


  • The Sutton Trust is committed to improving social mobility from birth to the workplace. Founded by Sir Peter Lampl in 1997, the Trust has supported over 30,000 young people through evidence-led programmes and published over 200 pieces of agenda-setting research, many of which have influenced government policy.
  • The research brief was authored by a team at the Sutton Trust including Erica Holt-White and Dr Rebecca Montacute.
  • Figures relating to employers are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,005 HR Decision Makers. Fieldwork was undertaken between 18th – 29th June 2020.  The survey was carried out online.
  • Youthsight surveyed current undergraduate students, with polling taking place online through their student omnibus between the 9th and the 14th of April 2020. The student omnibus is weighted to be representative by Gender, Course Year and University Group (Russell Group, Post 1992 and Pre 1992 institutions). Data here includes 895 home (UK) undergraduate students.

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