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Research by the National Union of Students (NUS) has found that only a quarter of students are optimistic about entering the world of work. The findings were the result of the Students and Work research conducted by the NUS during Lent Term.
As a result of their researc,h the NUS found that students and graduates are more pessimistic than optimistic about the job market, with almost four in 10 students found to be pessimistic (39 percent), while almost three in ten were optimistic (28 percent).
One aspect of the research focused on where students and graduates believed the responsibility for improving the job market lies. The results of the research suggested employers, with 55 percent of respondents believing that “big” employers are responsible, while 33 percent believed small- and medium-sized employers were responsible. The research found that only 29 percent of respondents believed the Westminster government are responsible for improving the job market, while one third of students and graduates thought young people themselves were responsible.
Other areas covered by the survey included the politically volatile subjects of the National Minimum Wage, fair pay and zero hours contracts. The NUS found that less than two in 10 (18 percent) of students and graduates believe that the National Minimum Wage is currently set at the amount which would give people a decent standard of living. The topic of fair pay was voted the most important by respondents, with 57 percent of those who responded telling the NUS that it was very important. Meanwhile, those students currently studying in further education – as opposed to higher education – were more than three times as likely to say flexible working is very important in terms of what makes a decent job for young people (36 percent) compared to graduates (11 percent).
Internships and work experience were also considered important topics by the research. Only one percent of respondents thought it was fair for a person to work for more than six months without pay in order to gain experience, but one in three said they would be happy to work for more than four weeks to gain work experience. Graduates and university students were more likely (26 percent and 27 percent) to think that working for free at all to gain experience is unfair compared to FE students (19 percent).
In response to the findings, the NUS has launched a new Commission for the Future of Work. The Commission, chaired by NUS President Toni Pearce, is charged with assembling a wide range of experts to consider both written evidence and oral evidence during hearings to be held in the House of Commons on Monday Week 5 and Monday Week 7. The NUS – working with The Work Foundation – will then issue a report based on the evidence.
In response to the NUS’ findings, Pearce said: “While previous generations looked on the employment landscape as a land of opportunity, the next generation increasingly looks on as an abyss. It should be a wake-up call to politicians and employers that just a quarter of young people are optimistic about the jobs market.”
“We are really excited to be bringing together such a fantastic breadth of commissioners to consider the action we can take together to improve the prospects of the next generation,” Pearce said. “Young people are crying out for a new deal for work and our commission will lay the foundations for us to make it a reality.”
A separate aspect of the NUS’s research focused on students’ and graduates’ ability to set up their own business. 56 percent of graduate respondents said they would be willing to set up their own business or social enterprise if they were given enough support and guidance. Financial support was seen as the most desirable form of help for those willing to set up their own business or social enterprise, with 85 percent of respondents saying they would need or want such financial backing.
Overall, the NUS found that there were several headline policies which most students and graduates would like to see implemented at a national level to help improve their prospects in the job market. The most important was the introduction of travel discounts, such as cheaper bus or rail fares. This was rated as the most popular policy suggestion that would improve the job market for young people, with 85 percent of those that responded to the survey believing it to be a good idea.
Other popular policies included the increase of the Minimum Wage, with 78 percent of respondents wanting it increased to the level of the Living Wage. 77 percent of students, meanwhile, would like to see job placements available on all courses, no matter what degree scheme, while 73 percent said they would like to see a government-funded paid internship scheme.