As another University year begins, research by Bright Network, the UKs leading platform connecting graduates to employers, has highlighted how the pandemic and remote working has opened up new career opportunities and better social mobility for graduates in regions around the UK.
Remote working has enabled graduates to accept employment opportunities in areas they were perhaps unable to access or afford in the past, with almost a third of young people accepting jobs they couldn’t before, because of a long commute to the office, and almost a quarter (24%) of graduates saying the main benefit of working remotely is flexibility in where they live.
The research shows the opportunity for universities and government to capitalize on remote working as a way to level up countries and improve social mobility for young people. 26% of graduates in the North-West were able to accept a job based in a different city from where they live because of remote working, while 31% of those in the Midlands were able to do the same.
While remote working and higher education have the potential to do a great deal for levelling up, particularly after COVID-19 with 77% of graduates saying the pandemic has widened inequalities, this must come with a balance for graduates.
The research shows face-to-face time in offices will still be an important part of a graduate’s career development. Almost half (49%) of young people questioned fear that continued remote working will put them at a disadvantage in their careers, while previous research indicates that 40% of graduates would prefer a mix of office and remote working, with only 6% of graduates wanting to work 100% remotely.
While this is the start of a positive trend, there is still more to be done to tackle the brain drain from rural regions into big cities. The research from Bright Network’s 500,000+ members has shown an ongoing regional divide with 63% of students saying they would most ideally like to work in London, and nearly 40% of students who studied in Northern Universities moving to London after their studies.
Bright Network is calling on Government and universities to consider the potential of what remote working can do for graduate employment and social mobility. Bright Network is developing a manifesto alongside other key partners from academia and civil society calling for substantial development.
James Uffindell, Founder of Bright Network, said:
“The Government’s proposal to protect flexible working conditions will further cement a remote working trend that we’ve seen contribute to levelling up and social mobility for graduates.
Remote working is enabling graduates to stay where they studied, whether it be in Middlesborough or Birmingham, and accept a job in London where there are far more graduate opportunities.
Graduate and post university jobs are an important first step of a person’s career path. Ensuring everyone has equal opportunity to get the best graduate roles, regardless of where they live or their financial background, is crucial.
This shift in the Government’s stance has the potential to positively impact the country’s productivity as a whole, supporting the levelling up agenda, and ensuring economic potential is evenly distributed around the country. Universities, government and Bright Network need to collaborate now more than ever to ensure that university graduates’ prospects aren’t hindered.
In this vein, flexible work will need to strike a balance - almost half (49%) of young people questioned fear that continued remote working will put them at a disadvantage in their careers, recognizing that face-to-face time is an invaluable part of development.