University of Helsinki: The coronavirus pandemic changed working methods and the content of work, but few lost their jobs

A recent career monitoring survey shows that master’s and doctoral graduates from the University of Helsinki have a high employment rate and are satisfied with their degree. The survey also explored the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on work and employment.

The coronavirus pandemic had a fairly small impact on the job market situation of the University of Helsinki’s master’s graduates of 2015. Only one in seven graduates were affected, according to their own estimate. This is according to a career monitoring survey carried out in late autumn in 2020.

The number of survey respondents who had been furloughed as a result of the pandemic peaked in May, but the majority had returned to work by October 2020. Some respondents stated that the pandemic had made job seeking more difficult. In addition, some had delayed starting a new business, whereas a number of entrepreneurs reported difficulties related to business activities.

Increased work engagement for some, decreased motivation for others
“The majority of the respondents reported changes in the content of their work, their working methods or the skills required in their job. The single biggest change was the move to remote work. Those who continued to work on site had to take the virus into account in occupational health and safety,” says Eric Carver, a specialist at Strategic Services for Teaching.

The respondents’ views about the impact of the pandemic on their professional skills needs and occupational wellbeing varied considerably.

“Some felt they had learned many new skills, while others said that the content of their work or the skills required for it changed little as a result of the move to remote work. Many respondents reported that the pandemic, remote work and the changes or restrictions concerning social interaction had reduced their occupational wellbeing or motivation. But others said that remote work had enhanced their work-related effectiveness and work engagement, and had improved the conditions for reconciling their work and personal life,” notes Carver.

The pandemic highlighted new skills needs
“The responses of graduates from the Faculty of Social Sciences were surprising in that their job market position had remained strong even during the pandemic: just four per cent reported being furloughed. Approximately 50% said that remote work had increased, whereas changes in on-site work were mentioned mostly by those employed in the social welfare and healthcare sector. Some have thrived during the remote work period and aren’t eager to return to the kind of on-site work they did before,” says University Lecturer Markku Sippola, analysing the open-ended responses submitted by graduates from the Faculty of Social Sciences.

Respondents from the Faculty of Arts said that they had needed, in particular, more IT skills as well as self-management and interaction skills during the pandemic. For many, these needs were related to remote work.

“Those working in teaching stood out among the professional groups by problematising the impact of the switch to remote work or the impact of pandemic restrictions in the on-site work environment on their specific skills needs, particularly pedagogical expertise,” says Career Planning Adviser Jarkko Immonen.

“The responses by graduates from the faculties of veterinary medicine, medicine and pharmacy highlighted changes in subject-specific skills needs and the necessity of learning new approaches and skills as a result of the coronavirus pandemic,” notes Career Planning Adviser Sanna Grannas.

“A few graduates from the Faculty of Law mentioned changes in the content of work, such as legal questions related to the coronavirus pandemic,” says Tarja Tuononen, senior lecturer in university pedagogy at the Centre for University Teaching and Learning.

The results of the career monitoring survey affect university funding
As of this year, the career monitoring survey of master’s graduates affects the model for the distribution of funding to Finnish universities. The measures used include the number of graduates employed and the quality of education assessed on the basis of the survey responses.

The next career monitoring survey will begin on Monday, 4 October. This time, the survey is targeted at the master’s graduates of 2016 and the doctoral graduates of 2018. The survey will be sent separately to each prospective respondent.

A summary of the results of the 2020 career monitoring survey, master’s graduates
University of Helsinki graduates who have completed a master’s degree, a Bachelor of Science (Pharmacy) degree or a kindergarten teacher degree have excellent job prospects. Five years after graduating, 93% of the survey respondents were employed, 2% were unemployed, and 5% were outside the workforce. Those outside the workforce consist of, for example, full-time students. The share of gainfully employed graduates in the workforce was very high at 98%.

More than four-fifths of the survey respondents are satisfied with their degree in terms of their career, have a job whose requirements correspond to their academic qualifications, and are able to use the knowledge and skills acquired at university in their job.

Graduates from the 11 faculties of the University of Helsinki find employment in a wide range of specialist roles. Five years after graduation, approximately 20% were employed in the teaching and education sector and another 20% worked with customers and patients. About one in seven worked in administration, planning and development, and over one in ten did research work.

More than one in three respondents worked in companies, and just under a third worked for municipalities. Other significant employers include the government, universities and the third sector. Just over 20% of the respondents have worked as an entrepreneur, freelancer or self-employed professional after graduation.

The share of those who have experienced unemployment after graduation has remained the same as in previous surveys (approx. one-third; 34% of the 2015 graduates). Variation between faculties is significant.

The graduates are most critical in their assessment of whether their education equipped them sufficiently for the job market. Two-thirds agree at least somewhat with this statement.

Differences between faculties are partly significant in the assessment of the correlation between education and employment.

The share of graduates satisfied with their degree varies from 100% for the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine to 69% for the Faculty of Theology. The distribution of responses highlights the difference between fields of education that prepare students either for a particular profession or role, or for a wide range of specialist positions. The correlation between education and employment is, on average, assessed more positively in the former than in the latter fields. However, it is important to note that views also differ significantly within faculties and fields of education.
For further information on the employment of master’s graduates from different fields can be found in the career monitoring report of master’s graduates (PDF).

A summary of the results of the 2020 career monitoring survey, doctoral graduates
Doctoral graduates from the University of Helsinki have excellent employment prospects. Three years after graduating, 94% of the survey respondents were employed, 1% were unemployed, and 5% were outside the workforce. The share of gainfully employed graduates in the workforce was very high at 99%.

More than four-fifths of the survey respondents have a job whose requirements correspond to their academic qualifications, are able to use their knowledge and skills acquired at university in their job, and are satisfied with their degree in terms of their career.

More than 40% of doctoral graduates work primarily in research. In general, doctoral graduates hold a wide range of roles, depending on their fields of education and research. One-third of doctoral graduates find employment in the university sector, one-quarter in companies and under one-fifth in the government sector.

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