The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically reshaped our modern world, affecting millions of people directly and indirectly. The pandemic's economic changes and social ripples can be seen and felt by corporations, businesses, and individuals. Furthermore, this could just be the beginning.
One part of the world population most dramatically affected by the pandemic is recent college graduates. Companies are not eager to hire new people, with some businesses letting employees go from their current positions. Finding an opportunity in this climate can be extremely difficult, even if you are a STEM student. Experiencing this first hand, GenerationHelp founders Tomer Tricot and Will Harvey have decided to do something about it.
As a direct result of COVID-19, the team created an organization that connects recent STEM graduates with SMEs, small and medium-sized enterprises. The free service helps these graduates build their careers even in these uncertain times while providing SMEs with some very much needed help. We sat down and discussed the GenerationHelp project, their views on the current job market in the United Kingdom, and the current opportunities available to graduates.
COVID-19 will shape the class of 2020 and beyond for the rest of their lives
Getting a job as a new graduate is difficult. Getting a job as a new graduate during the pandemic requires a little extra finesse. An odd sign of the turbulent times for the recent graduates can be seen in the emergence of virtual reality, and even robot graduations. Slightly dystopian, these ceremonies allow the student to celebrate their completed schooling in the virtual world or even appear physically using remotely operate robots. For students currently about to graduate, or still in school things are even weirder.
In a student report published by researchers from Arizona State University, it was discovered that at the school alone, 40% of students have lost their jobs and/or internships in recent months. Students seem to be floating in a no man's land, with many upcoming graduates attempting to delay their graduations. Things over in the United Kingdom are not much better.
"We probably spent a good six weeks looking for jobs with no luck," said Will Harvey of GenerationHelp in an interview with Interesting Engineering.
"Of course, with the current market, no one was building their team, recruitment was on hold, the job search process was extremely difficult."
A report published by the Institute of Student Employers has already cut graduate vacancies by 12%. Even more so those internships that get your foot in the door are down 40% in the United Kingdom. So what can one do? In their home country, the GenerationHelp team has found an unlikely place of opportunity for recent grads in SMEs.
These STEM graduates are helping fellow STEM graduates get their foot in the door
The UK-based GenerationHelp team is currently led by two STEM graduates Tomer Tricot and Will Harvey from The University of Leeds. The duo crossed paths while pursuing degrees in physics. Upon seeing the current challenges presented by the pandemic and how it was directly affecting graduates who were looking for work, the friends founded GenerationHelp. However, we are getting ahead of ourselves. Let's introduce our founders.
Like the rest of us, the recent STEM graduates had their lives uprooted by COVID-19. When fears around the pandemic were at its peak, Will and Harvey were unsure what to do next. Opportunities in the job market were nonexistent. Even more so, these versatile problem-solvers wanted to find a way to help during the crisis. This is how GenerationHelp was born.
The job matchmaking service for recent STEM graduates
Like many people currently looking for opportunities or ways to build their career, Tomer and Will had to rethink how they could add value to the market.
"An important bit of advice that was given to us was that we should find ways to integrate ourselves within companies by offering to do project work, helping them out in any way that we can." This advice would spark the conversation that would lead to GenerationHelp.
"Not to be biased, but STEM students are some of the most versatile graduates out there."
"We saw the power in connecting recent graduates with SMEs," says Tricot. The idea was simple. SMEs are currently struggling and still are struggling because of the economic market. Recent graduates want to start building their careers and networks, making their way into their desired sectors. STEM graduates tend to be excellent problem solvers. Years of brutal schooling turn out individuals with a wide range of skill sets.
This can be extremely useful for businesses in these uncertain times. GenerationHelp was there to bridge the gap, creating this collaborative effort. Think of it as some sort of matchmaking service.
How does GenerationHelp find a job for recent graduates?
Over the past four months, this plan has worked out very well for GenerationHelp, the SMEs, and recent STEM graduates. So far, they have reached 200 graduates and 40 companies.
"All of the connections from the company side and grad side seem to be very pleased with the results," Tomer added. "Initially, we didn't expect it to last this long; nonetheless, we wanted to push it as far as it can go."
So how does it work? As described by the team, "GenerationHelp seeks to provide a platform for STEM graduates and innovative SMEs/start-ups to connect and collaborate through remote and flexible working."
"Companies are preparing for the new normal, and we believe STEM graduates can support companies through this transformation period. Graduates are the future of our economy and are eager to apply their skills to real-life challenges while creating invaluable industry links to help kick-start their careers."
"Recent graduates tend to focus on the giant multinational corporations rather than SMEs."
The process is straightforward. Potential candidates fill out a form answering basic questions like what they are looking for in an opportunity and in what sectors. While on the flip side, a company tells GenerationHelp what they are looking for in a potential candidate. Grads are paired with opportunities that are the best fit. Interestingly, unlike a majority of other matchmaking services out there. Tomer and Will do all of this by hand. Excitingly, GenerationHelp's service is free.
"During this crisis, we wanted to help people get their foot into the door." There are no algorithms or automated systems in place. This hands-on approach has led to their evident success. Nevertheless, automation is not out of the question. In the future, whether led by them or a new team, the belief is that automation could make the process much easier and efficient, maximizing the number of potential matches.
"The idea of using AI is not too far out of reach as there other matchmaking services that do it. AI could make GenerationHelp more manageable".
STEM graduates will play a crucial role in the post-pandemic world
Though the opportunity for GenerationHelp was born out of the pandemic, Will and Tomer strongly believe that this is something needed in the market and could have endless possibilities after things return to normal.
"A majority of graduates, regardless of the situation, struggle to find opportunities," says Tomer. "Recent graduates tend to focus on the giant multinational corporations rather than SMEs. GenerationHelp is looking to highlight how there is a multitude of great companies and opportunities out there beyond just these big businesses. It can be very difficult to find SMEs that are hiring, or know the right people to talk to. That's where Generation Help steps in".
According to the Pew Research Center employment in science, technology, engineering, and math occupations has grown 79% since 1990. Software engineering, medical technology, and sustainability engineering, and biology are just some of the areas of expertise that will play a role in shaping the near future. STEM solutions are playing a vital role in our return to normality.
Though the outlook at the moment is currently grim, the changes in the market could have long term positive impacts for students in the STEM fields. The GenerationHelp team believes that the current crisis could accelerate the need for more automation, emerging technologies, and scientific innovation, thus creating more jobs in the long-term, potentially opening doors that have been less-focused on.
"Companies are going to want to become more efficient, and the way they are going to do that is through STEM grads."
Young people now more than ever are interested in pursuing STEM careers
This is all thanks to the pandemic. Young people about to enter college, or still have a few years to go see the STEM world as an opportunity to "fix" our modern world, especially in the U.K. Research published by EngineeringUK has found that a little under half of 15 to 19-year-olds want to pursue STEM education and career because of recent events. Why? Young people more than ever care about a job that enabled them to make a positive societal contribution. Online STEM education is becoming a big trend among young adults and is equally playing a role in the furthering of current STEM students.
GenerationHelp is always looking for ways to support STEM students and grads
For GenerationHelp to be truly successful, they need to expand their network, making it as big as possible. Moving forward, this is going to be crucial to GenerationHelp's continued success. The team has also been on the hunt for creative ways to support the graduates that they work with.
Will and Tomer have already begun building this network by partnering up the Institution of Engineering and Technology, which gave graduates six months of their services for free. They have worked with STEMAZing to create webinar workshops to highlight key things that graduates should be doing at this moment in time.
"One of the hardest challenges with GenerationHelp was networking with all the organizations and companies. But the funny thing is that all of them said that they loved what we were doing", says Will.
You could help GenerationHelp continue their mission
The dynamic duo is currently transitioning into the job market and has made it clear that they are looking to pass the baton to anyone who wants to continue the GenerationHelp mission. Will and Tomer want to find someone who can build on what they have created during the past four months taking the online STEM matchmaking company "to the next level." The team has worked hard, spending up to 12 hours a day helping their peers. As they are both recent graduates, they are currently looking to transition into their own careers. Unfortunately, this will limit the amount of time they can spend on job matchmaking. They need funding and motivated individuals or organizations to keep GenerationHelp going.
However, if GenerationHelp dissipates in the near future, all is not lost. As mentioned above, GenerationHelp is a reminder of all the good that young engineers have done in response to this unprecedented pandemic. They have helped dozens of graduates and SMEs find valuable opportunities.
"If we do end it, GenerationHelp would like to have a big ending shouting out the current opportunities that are out there during the pandemic, as almost an inspiration to people who are looking to build their career, during these times," says Tomer.
"We could close as early as this month," adds Will. "However, there are still options. We either want to showcase that graduates are able to do something like this and that there is real potential out there for SMEs and recent graduates to collaborate. One of the biggest challenges in this moment of time for graduates is building their network before being ushered off into the job market."
Will and Tomer are eager to keep GenerationHelp alive and are looking for an organization or even an individual to keep the company's heart beating.
"We have seen a positive response from companies and organizations like Interesting Engineering. This just confirms that what we do at GenerationHelp is currently needed in the marketplace and has the potential to be big and impactful." says the UK based team. We are looking for someone who shares our same goals. If someone were to come along and charge obscene amounts of money for our services, that would move away from what we're trying to accomplish."
What can STEM graduates do right now while looking for a job?
"We have spoken to a lot of CEOs and have found that there are things that grads should be doing right. Most, importantly, be proactive."
"The important thing you can do right now is be productive as possible. That can be an online course, writing a blog, or even starting a project. When you have an interview in six months, and they ask you, how have you spent your time during the lockdown, you will need to have an answer. Make the most out of your time right now".
If you are a graduate or company looking to join the GenerationHelp network, you can fill out a form here.