Scotland’s independent think tank
Scotland’s independent think tank

The pandemic’s impact on graduate opportunities in Scotland – Edinburgh University Consulting Club

Reform Scotland has been delighted to once again mentor a team of students from the University of Edinburgh. This is the third year of our collaboration, with this year’s team looking at employment opportunities for graduates in Scotland. A summary of the final report is outlined below along with a link to download the full report. 


The authors are: 
Shreya Piplani, Virender Pratap Singh, Angus Smith, Rikke Vessia

In the UK alone we have witnessed a large change to working life with the majority of companies employing a work from home policy or having to shut completely (High-street retail, hospitality etc.) to obey the national lockdowns imposed by the government. This has resulted in over 11.5 million employees being placed on furlough in the UK by May 2021 with the under 24-year-olds making up the highest proportion of this.

It goes without saying that the pandemic has had devastating effects on many walks of life including the job market with firms having less funds to recruit new staff than in usual times. Our analysis has particularly highlighted how job postings in Scotland have decreased dramatically in comparison to the same months in 2019 with a 54% decrease being seen in April alone.  Furthermore, in the UK, graduate opportunities were down by 10.8% in 2020 as compared to 2019. This could be devastating in the long run for Scotland who already struggle with a large skills gap, ageing population and a struggle to retain graduate students.

The importance of graduates to an economy isn’t often advertised by a country, but coming out of a pandemic, an increase in graduate recruitment could provide a cheaper alternative to getting the economy back on track. Graduates often serve as a willing, adaptable employee with a grasp for the latest technology and therefore provide an attractive employment strategy that can be recruited at a lower cost than a more experienced applicant. They also have a track record of increasing productivity as was seen between 1994-2005 where UK graduates attributed a one-third increase in labour productivity.

Therefore, it is paramount that the government gives consideration to some of the recommendations to increase graduate employment detailed in the report, to help limit the impact of the pandemic and provide the opportunity for the economy to make an accelerated return to 2019 levels.

The comparison of how the pandemic has affected Scotland compared to 6 other selected countries namely, Belgium, Canada, Finland, New Zealand, Poland, and Sweden has provided useful insights into how the pandemic has globally affected the job market as well as how these countries have adapted their policies in attempt to cope with the changes the pandemic has inevitably caused. Lessons can be taken from each of these countries who are all experiencing a revival in the job market at different rates. New Zealand, who are renowned for how they dealt with the pandemic, were seen to create a Targeted Training and Apprenticeship Fund in which qualifications and tuition for certain qualifications can be financially subsidised by the government in an attempt to encourage young adults to gain skills in specific areas. Our recommendations have not only incorporated schemes that have been seen to work well within these countries, but also areas in which we have identified Scotland to require a particular focus on.

Improvements to the Youth Guarantee Scheme (£60 million investment) which guarantees that adults aged 16-24 will have the opportunity to either work, gain education or enrol in training,  is one of the recommendations on how Scotland could better the outlook for graduates in the post pandemic era. A particular focus on helping graduates find work after finishing their degrees is an extra area which could be incorporated into this scheme. Other suggestions include a Covid Challenge Investment Fund which would provide financial incentives to SMEs to employ graduates and this could be funded utilising the Universities Innovation Fund. Additionally, globally recognised firms who currently don’t have offices in Scotland could be encouraged to develop in Scotland. We have identified companies such as Monzo, eBay and Etsy to name a few, who we believe would be a great addition to Scotland and would allow the potential for many graduates to be hired at these firms.

The revival of the graduate job market should be one of the priorities of the Scottish Government as we come out the other side of the pandemic. If these changes are introduced and further large companies are encouraged to develop offices in Scotland, the graduate job market should be able to make a strong revival and give Scotland the stepping stone it needs to exit the pandemic in a positive manner.

The Pandemic’s impact on graduate opportunities in Scotland