New research has revealed that the most recent cohorts of non-Russell Group graduates (83% of those aged under 26) feel that they wouldn’t have been able to secure their first graduate role without an internship, compared to just 14% of their Russell Group contemporaries. Across generations, over half (55%) of non-Russell Group graduates wouldn’t have been able to secure their first graduate role without an internship, in comparison to just 46% of their Russell Group counterparts.

Research from leading graduate careers site Milkround delves into how graduates’ attitudes to work have changed over time and what employers can do to bridge the gap. Looking at the most recent cohort of graduates, two thirds (66%) under 26 said they wouldn’t have been able to secure their graduate job without previous experience, starkly contrasted to just 32% of Baby Boomers (55-73 year olds) who report the same. 

In line with the rise of internships, graduates are now being recruited earlier, with 60% of Gen Z (18-22) having secured a graduate position before they leave university. This makes them the least likely of all generations to still be looking for a job after graduation. Looking at this in more detail, one in three (33%) of Gen Z secured their graduate role before reaching their final year, while 27% secured their first role during their final year of university. This contrasts with 17% of Millennials (23-38) who secured a role in their last year, and nearly half (48%) found graduate employment post university.

Gen Z also understand the need to start finding jobs earlier on, with 27% beginning their job search in their second year (double the 13% of Millennials who did this) and 15% even starting in their first year of university.

Speaking about the findings Georgina Brazier, Jobs Expert at Milkround, said: “It’s clear that internships are now crucial for young graduates when looking for their first job, even more so for graduates from non-Russell Group universities. Businesses need to make sure that their internship schemes are not only accessible to everyone, but also challenge interns to develop the skills they’ll need when entering the workplace.”

More Skills = More Success

UK workers feel very differently about what they consider to be the best indicator of success or progression. Interestingly, in contrast to generations before them, double the amount of Gen Z are keen to keep learning new skills throughout their career than see an increase in salary and often see these skills as a key measure of success. One in three (31%) Gen Z workers believe that the best indicator of success and progression is learning new skills, compared to just 15% of Baby Boomers who would say the same about their first grad job.

Only 15% of Gen Z stated that an increase in salary was an important measure of success for their first job, making them the least salary-focused generation surveyed. Non-Russell Group graduates are more likely to measure their workplace success when learning new skills (21%) than their Russell Group counterparts, who are more likely to measure success by an increase in salary (20%).

Thinking about their current jobs, one in seven (16%) Baby Boomers now see the strongest indicator of success as making a difference to other people. Surprisingly, only 9% of Gen Z stated that this was a factor in how they measure their success. Reaching a higher salary was the top priority for Millennials (22%).

Industry Hoppers

When asked why they expect to leave their current role, almost three in ten (29%) of Gen Z state that they would move on to another job to learn new skills compared to 4% of Baby Boomers. This correlates to what Gen Z see as the most important indicator of progression. 84% of Gen Z don’t expect to stay in their first job for more than two years, compared to the 67% of Millennials and 37% of Baby Boomers who didn’t make it past the two-year mark in their first roles.

What’s more, Gen Z’s flexibility isn’t just about what job or industry they work in, but also what they do when they arrive in their first graduate position. One in five (19%) Gen Z graduates report looking for flexible working opportunities in their first graduate role compared to one in twenty (7%) Baby Boomers, signposting a significant shift in what employers should be offering to attract top talent.

One in four (24%) of Brits also know someone who was promoted to stop them quitting, and not on merit. Gen Z are more likely to report this, with 28% of young workers reporting they’ve experienced this, compared to just 10% of Baby Boomers.

Georgina Brazier, Jobs Expert at Milkround, added: “Today’s graduates are more curious than their older counterparts, with the vast majority really seeing the added value in their internship experience, but also wanting to continue learning new skills throughout their careers. With so many young workers having seen people around them get promoted as a means of retention, not based on merit, it’s important for employers to really focus in on what success and progression looks like to Gen Z to avoid workers becoming disengaged.

“It’s crucial for employers to be adapting their workplaces to keep younger workers satisfied and motivated by providing learning and development opportunities – whether it’s extra training, clear progression opportunities or the chance to move around the business to learn new skills. If employers can’t do this, ultimately, Gen Z are more flexible than generations before them and are happy to seek out these learning opportunities within a new company, or even in a new industry.”

Methodology: Opinium surveyed 2,000 UK graduates between 6th and 14th February 2020 on behalf of Milkround.

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