Gen Z students pessimistic about their job prospects, study reveals

Khushali Dodhia 5 January 2017

Undergraduates are pessimistic about their job prospects, with just one in ten believing they will achieve their dream job, a study of nearly 1,400 university students has found.

A survey conducted by EY, one of the “Big Four” accounting firms, found that only 20% of freshers believe that they will secure their dream career. This figure falls even further, to just 10%, for students in their final year of university.

The firm surveyed 1,379 “Generation Z” students – born in the late 1990s – from 105 universities across the UK, including undergraduates at Cambridge and Oxford.

The study reveals that 42% of students do not think that their degree has made them more employable – although the vast majority, nine out of ten, remain overwhelmingly positive about their decision to attend university in spite of this.

Gen Z students cited “job security” as their main priority. 58% said it was a consideration when deciding where they want to work, compared to 54% who want to work “in a dynamic and exciting environment” and 49% who hope to make “a positive impact in society”.

Two thirds of undergraduates said they would not rule out any employment opportunity, even if an organisation had a poor reputation.

Nick Gomer, Office Managing Partner at EY in Cambridge, commented on the findings: “The so-called Generation Z grew up during the financial crisis, a time of deep uncertainty.

“Now they are faced with future uncertainties caused by Brexit and wider global political events. This appears to have markedly impacted their outlook on the world of work. Employers need to play their part in addressing the needs of students: shaping opportunities which are accessible and engaging with them as they look to enter the workplace.”

The survey also revealed students’ frustration with perceived unfairness when it comes to job applications, with 60% of students agreeing that “it’s still who you know, not what you know”. Only a third of undergraduates believe that anyone can get the right job as long as they have the right qualifications, with “background” considered one of the most common barriers to finding employment.

A finalist from Pembroke commented: “Even though it will take me a while to secure my dream job in the publishing industry, my background will give me the privilege to keep taking unpaid work experience, which lots of people don’t have the luxury of doing.”