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Handshake calls on tech industry to address digital divide UK universities

A new report launched today from Handshake, the early career network and career management platform shows how outdated legacy careers technologies at universities are, creating obstacles to graduate recruitment pipelines and exacerbating existing digital divides. 

The report calls for the technology industry to collaborate more closely with academia to deliver digital solutions and mobile-first platforms that better deliver on their needs.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic means those entering the jobs market are being let down by virtual technologies that often miss the point of the experiences they seek to recreate – creating authentic connection. The report finds that as a result, students are struggling to create the connections they need to navigate these economically turbulent times. 

With reduced connections brokered by their university, “Digitally disadvantaged” students from working class backgrounds, and without the digital professional networks of the family and friends, are more likely to be left behind. This further decreases their chances of quality employment in 2021 and places a handbrake on social mobility. 

While digital networks and virtual recruitment practices are currently necessary, mobile-first solutions were found to be key for this group, as while laptop access may be limited, 98% in the 16-24 age group own a smartphone. Yet, many university careers service offerings aren’t mobile-optimised. 

Instead of targeted provision, the abrupt shift to digital recruitment has meant increased reliance on traditional professional networking sites that don’t cater to the needs of new entrants to the jobs market. As a result, recent graduates have ended up disconnected from established career networks. As of October 2020, six in ten (59.9%) of LinkedIn users worldwide fell within the 25-34 bracket, in comparison to only 20.3% of users within the 18-24 bracket. 

Digital exclusion has also hit employers, with smaller businesses lacking access to tools such as applicant tracking systems, email marketing tools and video conferencing licenses. This is despite SMEs playing a key role in economic recovery, making up 34% of all open roles and 48% of all job postings in 2020.

To access the full Bringing Humanity Back to Graduate Recruitment report and sign up for a webinar with the latest insights, updates, and best practices, visit