Podcast Editor Samuel Pennifold on Chancellor Rishi Sunak, his plan to save jobs in the Covid-19 crisis, and how more must be done to support graduates entering the UK job market.

“Do right by students”, the NUS National President said earlier this year as we first headed into the pandemic. As the graduate class of 2020 receives their degree results, though, they will be stepping out into a world in turmoil beyond the relatively sheltered walls of King’s.

Students must be protected in the comings months, but graduates will be in just as much need of Rishi Sunak’s protection. With a graduate job market that was already shrinking before we started to slip into a global recession, the new graduating class is facing challenges beyond the norm. The support offered for young people by the chancellor does little to support university graduates.

Sunak’s campaign to protect jobs in a post-Covid-19 economy – if we ever get to that point – has been tailored to protect the jobs of those coming off of the furlough scheme which is slowly beging wound down, and to help young people looking to enter vocational apprenticeships. Large amounts of money have also been set aside to create jobs in the construction industry through large-scale national building campaigns, new infrastructure, and decarbonisation schemes.

The kickstart program to help young people living on universal credit find work will cost around £2 billion alone. A worthy cause in pursuit of equality, though with no schemes being promised to help those leaving university, it seems that graduates have been forgotten.

Having loaded themselves with tens of thousands of pounds worth of debt, the average graduate will now face severe job insecurity and shrinking graduate job availability accelerated by the global pandemic. Those who can access the kickstart program, on the other hand, will have the opportunity to work 25 hours a week with a high level of job security at a guaranteed minimum wage that can be topped up by individual employers. It is hard not to look on in envy.

These are schemes that are important and crucial – they are not to be sneered at, and have a good, inherent value to them. But more needs to be done to protect graduates. Adam Hunt, a current masters student hoping to graduate in January, commented on the level of “instability” graduates face, and how many of his friends are opting to go into graduate teaching programs, hoping to find a more “secure” path to employment as many people become more “cautious both applying and hiring”.

If this conservative chancellor has managed to find that all-too-elusive magic money tree in this crisis, then it is time to shake it a little harder in support of graduates. This support shouldn’t come at the cost of those in work already, those who chose to not go to university, or those in active need of financial support. It is not a question of who is more deserving. This is a time in which small government must be thrown out the window and intervention is key – at this time, everyone is in need and deserving, across all socio-economic standings.

Rishi Sunak, a man many have said could be a future prime minister, must adapt his plans accordingly, or generations of graduates will be left stranded to deal not only with the burden of their student debt, but with their country’s debt as well.


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