Jess Casey: Examining salaries and job prospects of our pandemic graduates

Jess Casey: Examining salaries and job prospects of our pandemic graduates

Take your mind back to March 2021. We’re a year into the pandemic and still living under significant lockdown.

With restrictions still in place, gyms, bars and restaurants are shuttered, along with cultural attractions and personal services.

Movement is restricted to within a five-kilometre radius, and non-essential travel and construction are banned.

The vast majority of the country is unvaccinated, thousands are receiving the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), and the country’s unemployment rate stands at 24.2%.

A bleak time in our recent history no doubt, and hard to imagine a worse picture for young people coming out of college.

How did the Class of 2020 fare navigating the hopefully never-to-be-repeated circumstances?

Published this morning by the Higher Education Authority (HEA), the Graduate Outcomes Survey offers a snapshot into the lives of college students nine months after graduation.

The authority has now collated three years worth of data through the survey, with one omission.

There is no data for the Class of 2019, which was due to be surveyed in March 2020, which ended up coinciding with the upheaval caused by the onset of Covid-19.

With the census taking place on March 31, 2021, the latest Graduate Outcomes survey collected input from more than 64,850 people after their exit from 23 higher education institutions.

This includes 52.6% of graduates from undergraduate honours degree programmes, and 23% graduates from Taught Masters programmes.

The pandemic did affect graduate employment as to be expected. But given the grim national picture at the time, the Class of 2020 seemed to have fared well.

Pre-pandemic, the graduate survey found eight out of ten students (80.1%) from the Class of 2018 were in employment nine months after graduation. A further 4.3% were unemployed.

For the Class of 2020, employment overall dropped to 75.9%, and unemployment had almost doubled, to 8.1%.

Employment and unemployment varied depending on graduates’ sectors. The sectors that saw the biggest drops in employment tended to mirror the sectors shut down at the time.

Arts and Humanities (53.1%) and Social Sciences, Journalism and Information (65.2%) had the lowest proportion of graduates in employment nine months after graduation. However, both fields had a high proportion of graduates pursuing further study, 27.4% and 24.5% respectively.

Overall, education courses had the highest proportion of graduates working nine months on from finishing college, with 84.% in full-time employment and a further 9.3% working part-time.

However, permanent and open-ended contracts were least common amongst education graduates.

Graduates from health and welfare courses, and engineering and manufacturing courses, also had a high proportion of graduates in employment, at 79.4% and 76.2% respectively.

When compared to pre-pandemic, male graduates from the Class of 2020 saw a larger drop in overall employment, and a larger increase in unemployment, than their female counterparts.

Their rate of employment went from 75.1% in 2018 to 69.6%, a drop of 5.5%, and their rate of unemployment went from 4.8% in 2018 t

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