Being a disabled student is tough, and moving into the world of work after graduation can be even tougher. So, what do we know about what the future holds for disabled graduates? And how can we improve this transition period in the future?
The Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Service (AGCAS) has reported on the outcomes of disabled graduates in the UK, and how these compare with non-disabled graduates. Though the report was published in 2022, the data collected came from students who graduated in 2019. It’s important to note that they will have been graduating pre-pandemic and not exposed to the monumental changes that have since made higher education and employment more achievable remotely, but the data still holds valuable insight into the current climate for disabled people seeking meaningful work.
The report sought to understand what impact disability has on a graduate’s destination after leaving university. Here are just some of their key findings…
- Disabled graduates are less likely to be in paid employment than those with no known disability. People with two or more conditions were among the least likely categories of disabled graduates to be in paid work, or to be working full-time.
- Disabled graduates are less likely to be in secure employment (permanent or fixed term contracts over 12 months) and more likely to be in insecure employment (temp roles, zero hours, or fixed term contracts less than 12 months). However, through our experience at Astriid we know it’s important to question whether this is through obligation or choice for people with chronic illness and Energy Limiting Conditions, who may prefer shorter-term or less rigid working patterns.
- Disabled people with an undergraduate degree are as likely to be in a job with supervisory responsibilities as non-disabled graduates. Could this show, we wonder, that they are just as competent at managing leadership responsibilities?
- Disabled graduates are more likely to be in work they are overqualified for or work that does not reflect the level/subject of their studies, compared with non-disabled graduates. Many Astriid candidates feel that employers make assumptions about their skills and capabilities simply due to their disability, which could partially explain this finding.
- Slightly higher proportions of disabled graduates continued on to further study than non-disabled graduates. Again, from experience, this could be the case due to a lack of inclusive roles for people to apply for once they finish their studies. Are disabled people choosing further study because they want to achieve a higher qualification, or because they feel this is their only opportunity to progress along a career path?
Based on these findings, the report sets out the following recommendations for the future:
- Take a more fine-grained approach to reporting the outcomes for different disability groups rather than the binary of disabled vs. non-disabled, to recognise the key differences within each. This supports Astriid’s call for more focus on the unique challenges of Long-Term Conditions and Energy-Limiting Conditions, as a discrete impairment group of disability.
- Conduct further research into these specific barriers, to explore how they can be overcome.
- Develop ‘specialist professional development resources’ for careers professionals, to help them better support disabled students.
- Adhere to the six recommendations from the Disabled Students’ Commission in 2021. This includes providing specific guidance for disabled students (and making clear whether this has been updated to reflect workplace practice changes since Covid-19), ensure students are aware of reasonable adjustments and how to implement them, introduce disabled graduates to existing support routes e.g. Access To Work, enable disabled students to engage with careers services and work in co-creation with them, explore disabled graduates’ expectations of employability and support them to gain experience and identify transferrable skills, and ensure that the prospect of future study and the implications of this are communicated clearly and understood by disabled graduates.
There are thousands of disabled graduates out there who could add tremendous value to the workforce, but it’s clear that we still have a long way to go to ensure this population has access to the calibre of opportunities that they are qualified for.
Here at Astriid, we welcome disabled students and graduates to sign up as candidates. We offer support, mentoring, training and upskilling opportunities, and our bespoke job matching service to help people find meaningful work that’s accommodating of any access needs. To find out more and get started, head to our homepage, click on ‘register your skills’, and complete the online form. Our team will take it from there!
In the meantime, more resources for disabled graduates are available on our website. If you’re a business or organisation hoping to improve inclusivity in your workplace practice, you may be interested in our Astriid Consulting services too!