Friday, January 22News For London

Coronavirus ‘steals’ thousands of students’ internships

A student from University Collage London is trying to find career help on the school’s website. Photo by Jinglin Zhou

Thousands of university students find it challenging to get an internship position due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Anna Brown, a final year undergraduate student at the University of Westminster, was excited about her new internship offer. She just got a position as a copywriter intern in an education agency after struggling for 35 days.

“I have worked part-time jobs in three companies in the four years of university. And this is the most difficult time,” said Anna.

Usually, the upcoming Christmas holiday is the best time for students to find a work placement. However, it’s difficult this year due to the financial recession and increasing unemployment.

According to the Institute of Student Employers, 30 percent of final year students lost their jobs this year. And other 30 percent of graduates got their offer cancelled with the reason “cutting placement” during the pandemic.

Changes made by employers

Companies continue to cut back on their work placements in response to the recession economy. The ISE said that its members were expecting to offer up to 40 percent fewer placements and internships.

Meanwhile, some employers were able to offer virtual internships and other online opportunities, such as Sky, Clifford Chance, EY and IBM.

Anna said that working from home does give students some opportunities. “This at least lets me know that even under lockdown, I still have a chance to find a job,” said Anna. “But I lost my real work experience.”

A dilemma for international students

Many international students chose to take their course online and find a placement in their nation instead of physically enrolling this year. But for others, it means that they are not really part of the course.

Lily Yan, an international postgraduate student from China, is learning law at University College London. She struggled to look for an internship in London for two months.

Lily said that she thought taking her course entirely online would be “a waste of time”. “But now I know how clever those guys are,” she said referring to the students who opted to study their courses online.

She applied to dozens of companies, and all of them did not respond. The legal profession companies in London offers little opportunities so that she tried to fight for a position in other industries such as marketing, public relations, advertising, and media.

“I tried to apply for all positions that I seem to be able to handle,” said Lily. “But I rarely even receive rejection letters because I don’t receive a reply.”

Back at the beginning of this year, the location is one of the crucial elements that persuaded Lily to choose UCL. She reckoned that London – one of the most international cities in the world – could give her more chances to get a placement.

“What surprised me most is last week there’s a PR company that invited me to do an online interview. But the HR did not show up at the arranged time.”

Will things get better in 2021?

A lot of university students in England will face unemployment upon graduation next year, according to ISE. It reports a substantial decrease in intern and placement numbers this year.

“Thousands of graduate employers are cutting back on internships and work placements,” said Tristram Hooley, the chief research officer of ISE. “Next year is anticipated the decrease will continue, while at a slower rate.”

Meanwhile, according to ISE’s report, more students prolonged their education due to the decreasing number of placements. Final year students who prefer to stay one year more in school could face the same difficult situation next year.

Universities have stepped up their help for students in finding jobs. “We have access to specialist one-to-one coaching from careers consultants in university,” said Lily. Besides, some universities reduced requirements for working hours.

Hooley said that ISE is trying to offer more help with the members and to expect student recruitment to be better in 2021.

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