This article first appeared on ISE Knowledge Hub on 6th May. In it I discuss why confidence in student employment matters and talk about how ISE members are feeling.
Whenever people start talking about the economy, they pretty quickly get round to talking about confidence. Whether it is consumer confidence, business confidence or Covid-confidence, it is clear that how people feel about doing something (like spending money) makes a difference to how they act.
One of the challenges with confidence is that it is important not to be over-confident. We don’t want everyone going out and spending money when they have no chance of earning. But, on the other hand it can be dangerous if people lack confidence and behave too cautiously. So, if consumers fear that they might lose their job they are less likely to go out for dinner or buy a new kitchen, with potentially disastrous impacts on the hospitality and kitchen retail sectors.
All of this matters more than ever for student recruitment in a period in which extreme levels of uncertainty have been the norm. As we reported last week, the market appears to be bouncing back with recruitment set to start rising again.
But, all of this is dependent on confidence. How will recruitment levels change if a vaccine resistant variation of Covid emerged or if Boris Johnson announced a new lockdown?
The answer of course depends on how confident your feel.
Market confidence isn’t the easiest thing to measure. There are lots of factors that might change how a particular employer feels about the market. An awful lot of them will be internal to their organisation, but some of them are based on judgements that people make about politics, the economy and the current state of the pandemic.
We wanted to start measuring ISE members confidence in the student employment market. So we decided to ask how far they agree with the following four statements:
- My organisation will grow over the next three years.
- There are sufficient opportunities available for young people who are leaving education or have recently left education.
- The worst of the Covid crisis is over.
- The worst of the economic crisis is over.
All four of these questions ask people to express their opinion about something that is quite subjective.
They move from the thing that they are probably best positioned to have an opinion on (their organisation) to the thing that even experts often get wrong (the future performance of the economy), but collectively they tell us something about how confident people are feeling.
If you were in an organisation that was growing, expected youth unemployment to fall, were sure that the pandemic was over and felt the economy was on the up, you would be very likely to be increasing your recruitment.
On the other hand if your firm was laying people off, your children were terrified about graduating, you were expecting another wave and getting ready for recession, you probably wouldn’t be arguing for an increase in recruitment.
Collectively we hope that these measures will give us an idea of how the market is developing and so we plan to keep asking them to see how confidence is changing.
So how confident were ISE members?
ISE members confidence about the future was quite mixed. None of the responses were moving into the strongly agree or strongly disagree categories on average and people clearly felt different about different aspects of the future.
Respondents’ confidence about the future
Respondents were most confident about their own organisation. On balance they agreed that their organisation was likely to grow over the next three years. This is important because people are likely to be better placed to assess their own situation and that of their organisation than they are of the whole economy. So a positive result here is good for the student employment sector.
They were also more likely to agree than disagree with the statement that the worst of the Covid crisis is over. The research was conducted in a period when the government’s lockdown roadmap was on target and the country was beginning to open up. This is also good news for the student employment sector.
Respondents were less positive about whether there were enough opportunities for young people in particular and whether the economic crisis is over. On balance respondents disagreed with both of these statement, which is not such good news for the student employment sector.
Next month we plan to return to these statements to see how confidence is developing.