Graduate and apprenticeship recruitment in the UK has fallen substantially from previous years, declining by half. 

According to new research by XpertHR, the number of companies recruiting new or recent graduates as part of a dedicated graduate scheme has fallen to just one in three.

This contrasts against figures from just two years ago (2019/2020) when two-thirds of organisations were hiring graduates, showing the toll of the pandemic.

Similarly, the number of organisations recruiting apprentices in 2021 (34.3 per cent) is around half that recorded in 2019/2020 (63.9 per cent).

This comes amid searches for graduate jobs increasing substantially over the past year with figures from Debut suggesting searches for graduate and entry level job vacancies have risen by 350 per cent since the initial lockdown in March 2020.

Despite this, this year, over one in three organisations (34.3 per cent) are currently planning to recruit as part of a dedicated apprenticeship scheme, suggesting potential recovery in this area.

However, whilst starting salaries for early career candidates have marginally grown, up to £25,000, the same cannot be said for apprenticeship salaries.

More than half (56.5 per cent) of organisations pay apprentices at the statutory minimum rate (£4.30 an hour for 2021/2022), compared with the three in 10 (28.7 per cent) who said the same in 2019/2020.

This suggests that employers are less likely to go beyond the statutory minimum for apprentice pay than they were prior to the pandemic. 

Michael Carty, Benchmarking Editor at XpertHR, comments: 

We are seeing widespread skills shortages and the potential for a ‘great resignation’ looming, meaning that most businesses – regardless of size or industry – are facing recruitment challenges.

However, many organisations would be in a stronger, safer, position if they had a healthy talent pipeline with a greater proportion of early career team members in the wings, ready and willing to grow and learn as the business needs.    

With much of the focus on filling gaps in the here and now, organisations are failing to prepare for tomorrow. Recruiting graduates and apprentices can be a great way to nurture young talent and support our business leaders of the future.

*The survey was conducted by XpertHR in May and June 2021 with respondents from 134 organisations with a combined workforce of 249,613 employees. 






Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.