ea Futures

Cancellation of Graduate Schemes in 2020

In the grip of the global pandemic, a swathe of graduate schemes have been axed in a bid to save on costs and dampen the effects of Covid-19. This year, just 18% of graduates are securing jobs compared to the typical 60%[1]. With a deep recession caused by this year’s coronavirus pandemic, almost two in five graduate employers said they expected to hire fewer graduates or none at all in the next 12 months[2].

A reduced budget has not been the only cause for a decrease in graduate recruitment. As offices were vacated and remote working became the new norm, many organisations could not facilitate moving their graduate schemes online whilst offering the same level of training and experience they could usually provide. Large organisations such as HSBC and the BBC are delaying their programmes[3], leaving a large pool of high-level graduates looking for opportunities.

What do graduates offer?

With a median starting salary of £29,000[4], most employers look to employ graduates as a cheaper alternative to an experienced hire, with graduates willing to compromise on finance in order to gain valuable experience within a company. However, the benefits of graduate recruitment stretch much further than this. Recruiting a new generation of talent into your organisation can bring in a fresh and innovative mindset, with young people driven to excel in a new career after being in education for as long as they can remember. As graduates progress through this learning curve, they will also give the company a new perspective – likely to question how and why an approach is used, they can push your company to review existing methods.

Fresh out of university and programmed to learn quickly, graduates are often regarded as a blank canvas. Having not yet been influenced by another organisation, a graduate can be moulded to become a truly embedded part of your culture. These young minds are also adaptable to rapid change, with this level of agility a scarce commodity amongst experienced hires, and an attribute organisations in fast-evolving industries are crying out for.

As gen-Z join the workforce, they are the first wave of employees to have grown up surrounded by computers and the internet from a very early age. A unique generation with technology engrained in their genes, the current cohort of graduates will be the most adept at working with tech to date, and ready to support your company in analysing the latest trends in the digital age.

Challenges of Remote Recruitment and Training

With the ongoing global pandemic comes the need for an agile recruitment and onboarding process that can be taken care of remotely and yet still deliver on requirements. Even though there was a trend for digitalisation of the initial stages of the recruitment process before coronavirus, the complete loss of any face-to-face contact does present challenges.

At the moment many employers have never even met their new employees in person for months after they’ve commenced work – a strange and alien way of working which takes some adjusting to. This adjustment to completely digital recruitment, along with new technologies such as AI and machine learning taking hold in the recruitment process, has led 79% of respondents to say their company struggles to keep on top of technology changes within recruitment in a survey conducted by Forbes[5].

The remote on-boarding of a new employee can also be tough, making it hard to get to know the team, and making co-workers less available to assist than if they were in the same room. Onboarding is made even harder by current budget constraints, with 51% of employers cutting training budgets due to Covid-19[6]. This makes it all the more important that you obtain the best candidate for the job, with proven ability to ensure this process runs smoothly. A greater weight is being put on skills such as problem solving, self-discipline and being a good self-starter, as this skill set is essential to enable a successful start in a remote role.

Problems with Conventional Graduate Schemes

Risk associated with running a traditional graduate scheme is discouraging top firms from implementing this approach. Even before the effects of the global pandemic graduate recruitment was slowing down dramatically, with the Institute of Student Employers reporting in January 2020 that employers were planning to increase graduate-level recruitment by just 3%, in comparison to an 18% rise the previous year[7]. Lack of return on graduate investment can leave employers out of pocket, ploughing money and time into recruitment and training in the hope that graduates will stick with the company for years to come, only for them to up and leave at the end of their scheme, taking their skills and experience with them. Even if they choose to stay on, managers are often frustrated by the rotational nature of a traditional graduate scheme, with knowledge being lost when graduates move on to a different business area after months of training.

The structure of a conventional graduate scheme does not always meet the talent supply needs of the business. Inflexible timeframes which work to fit in with the academic year are often not aligned to a project’s start, so graduate talent is not trained and available when it is really needed. Organisations receive a huge influx of applications for internally run graduate schemes, therefore requiring dedicated teams to filter the applications and run the recruitment process. This also means that managers within the business often do not meet the graduate until they are employed within their teams.

In times when recruitment budgets have been slashed and a low headcount is key, the recruitment and training costs of a traditional graduate scheme are not feasible, and because of this many companies have completely written off the idea of graduate recruitment this year.

Why it is still worth investing in Graduates right now

Whilst the economy has been badly hit by the impact of Covid-19, this downturn will not last forever. With the end of lockdown in sight, the Bank of England have predicted GDP will recover rapidly towards pre-Covid levels over 2021, and confidently forecast growth of 7.25% in 2022[8]. There is a danger that companies who have skimped on their usual intake of graduates will soon be scrambling to meet their recruitment needs as growth returns to businesses over the next two years.

ea Futures Programme

The ea Futures programmes is a cost-effective and flexible graduate recruitment solution for companies looking to build a future high-performance change pipeline. Our ‘project analysts’ are hand-picked from a pool of high potential graduates with at least a 2:1 degree from a Russell Group university.

The recruitment process is completely taken care of by ea Change, as well as training in soft and hard skills and facilitation of industry recognised certifications and accreditations. By absorbing the initial cost of taking on a recent graduate and supplying deployment-ready project analysts, we offer an alternative to a traditional graduate scheme on a much tighter budget. They become part of the ea family and get deployed on-site with a client on a 12- or 24-month contract to be a project analyst.

The project analysts are employed by us, reducing the risk shouldered by you and having no effect on permanent headcount. After their fixed term, we charge no transfer fee should you decide to take them on as a permanent employee, but there is also no commitment to employment – effectively giving you the opportunity to ‘try before you buy’. Our project analysts can be on-boarded within challenging timeframes, working with your business’s resource demand.

If you would like to know more about our project analyst scheme, please gives us a call or email us to find out more.








[1] J. Jones. “The uncertain present and future for recent graduates.” Bbc.com. https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200901-the-class-of-2020s-uncertain-present-and-future (Accessed Feb. 19th, 2021)

[2] S. Weale. “Majority of UK employers have had to cancel work experience due to Covid-19.” Theguardian.com. https://www.theguardian.com/money/2020/jul/29/majority-employers-cancel-work-experience-students-graduates-covid-19 (Accessed Feb. 19th, 2021)

[3] [Unknown author]. “Don’t let graduate schemes fall behind in the wake of Covid-19.” Managers.org.uk. https://www.managers.org.uk/knowledge-and-insights/article/dont-let-graduate-schemes-fall-behind-in-the-wake-of-covid-19-2/ (Accessed Feb. 19th, 2021)

[4] M. Grove. “Graduate salaries in the UK.” Luminate.prospects.ac.uk. https://luminate.prospects.ac.uk/graduate-salaries-in-the-uk (Accessed Feb. 22nd, 2021)

[5] C. Day. “Transforming Talent Acquisition Starts Yesterday.” Forbes.com. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2020/03/09/transforming-talent-acquisition-starts-yesterday/?sh=23ffe43d6cf9 (Accessed Feb. 23rd, 2021)

[6] C. Ball. “UK graduate labour market update: 17 February.” Luminate.prospects.ac.uk. https://luminate.prospects.ac.uk/uk-graduate-labour-market-update-17-february (Accessed Feb. 23rd, 2021)

[7] K. Makortoff. “UK employers will offer fewer entry-level jobs in 2020, figures suggest.” Theguardian.com. https://www.theguardian.com/money/2020/jan/06/uk-employers-fewer-entry-level-jobs-2020-survey (Accessed Feb. 22nd, 2021)

[8] J. Rojas. “UK economy will ‘recover rapidly’ as vaccines are rolled out this year, Bank of England predicts.” News.sky.com. https://news.sky.com/story/bank-of-england-sees-economy-recovering-rapidly-as-vaccines-rolled-out-12208428 (Accessed Feb. 24th, 2021)