BACK TO STUDIES: The pandemic caused music student Siri Storheim to ditch the freelance life in favour of a master’s degree.
BACK TO STUDIES: The pandemic caused music student Siri Storheim to ditch the freelance life in favour of a master’s degree.

The pandemic has caused students to worry about job prospects

38 percent of students say they view their job prospects as worse than before corona. They have good reason for this, according to a work life researcher.

–⁠ I’m very worried about my job prospects, much more than before the pandemic, says Siri Storheim (25), student at Norwegian Academy of Music.

Storheim completed a bachelor in Music Performance at the Academy in 2019. Now she has gone back to school to get a master’s degree, after one year of freelancing. The year of freelancing was cut short. When Norway shut down almost a year ago, all her jobs disappeared. Storheim describes the opportunity of returning to studies as a rescue.

–⁠ During the fall I was just thinking «oh my god, if I hadn’t started this master’s degree, it would have been disastrous».

At the same time, she is not hiding the fact that student life today brings a few extra worries.

–⁠ There are very few here who enter steady or full employment, even though there are statistics that say the majority get relevant work after completing their studies. But it can get very different in the next couple of years, Storheim says.

She’s not alone in thinking this. A survey conducted by Sentio on behalf of the Norwegian Student Organisation (NSO) and Universitas shows that 29 percent of Norwegian students view their job prospects as worse now than before corona. Nine percent answered that they now see their job prospects as much worse.

The survey was conducted in the fall of 2020.

Worrying numbers

The leader of NSO, Andreas Trohjell, thinks that the numbers from the survey have to be taken seriously.

–⁠ 38 percent say that they view their job prospects as worse or much worse compared to before the corona outbreak. Generally, I see that students are worried about further career and their future, which I greatly understand, he says.

Trohjell believes that the current labour market, with many on temporary leave and high unemployment, is contributing to the uncertainty. He highlights that students and young people also have sacrificed much during the pandemic, and believes it is important that we talk about this in the time ahead.

–⁠ I believe it is important that both the country’s political leaders, the institutions and the work life know these numbers and know what kind of generation is now completing their studies during the pandemic. In this way, there can be a focus on how to get these into the work life.

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Andreas Trohjell, leader of the Norwegian Student Organisation
Andreas Trohjell, leader of the Norwegian Student Organisation

Risky business

Storheim knew that studying music probably would not lead to a secure and steady job. She didn’t, however, know that the job market would be as difficult as it is today.

–⁠ Everyone knows it is a risky business, all creative fields are, and the freelance life was very fragile before the pandemic hit too. But I think many are in shock over how risky it actually is, Storheim says.

Even though she was shocked when the jobs disappeared and cultural life was shut down, she still chose to continue with musical education. At the same time, she says that she has thought about changing direction.

–⁠ I think about the fall when I’m done in half a year, and it’s like «shit what happens then». So I’m considering, now more than ever, to get more security.

When Universitas asked Storheim about what motivates her to continue, the answer is clear:

–⁠ It’s the art and the music. We have to play music, that’s why we are here.

I believe the educational institutions really have to put effort into helping the lost generation, the corona students

Siri Storheim, master’s student at NMH

Busy at the Career Services

32 percent of students at the University of Oslo (UiO) respond that they view their job prospects as worse than before the outbreak of the pandemic. Gisle Hellsten, leader of the Career Services, thinks the students’ worries are justified.

–⁠ I think we can say that the 32 percent are right in that the job market is worse now than it was before the pandemic. It would be silly to say anything else. We see that Norway has an unemployment rate of over seven percent. That’s twice as high as before the pandemic, Hellsten says.

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UNDERSTANDS THE STUDENTS: Gisle Hellsten, leader of the Career Services at UiO, shares the students’ concerns around the future job market.
UNDERSTANDS THE STUDENTS: Gisle Hellsten, leader of the Career Services at UiO, shares the students’ concerns around the future job market.

He can also say that there are more students who seek help at the Career Services now than before the pandemic.

–⁠ There has been an increase in the number of students who participate in our sessions this past year – quite a substantial increase, actually. This means that there are more students than before who take applying to jobs seriously and who understands that applying to jobs is a job in itself.

Even though there is a recession, Hellsten believes there are still opportunities to get a job, but that it requires more of the students in the application process.

–⁠ It might require that you work to improve your resume, cover letter and your communication with employers. That you are even more creative and active in finding opportunities, Hellsten says.

–⁠ It is very important to not lose hope and think that there isn’t even a point in applying to jobs. I think this is the wrong conclusion.

Lasting consequences

Professor at the Norwegian School of Economics, Kjell Gunnar Salvanes, has done research on recent graduates who enter the job market in recessions, and see some clear tendencies. He believes that the students have a real reason to worry about future work life.

–⁠ What we found in our research is that those who entered the work life in recessions had a reduction in salary of between five to ten percent, also over a longer time.

A pressured job market can lead to recent graduates taking jobs that don’t exactly match their qualifications. This can negatively affect further competence development.

–⁠ We believe that when you, as a recent graduate, enter a job that does not match your qualifications, you will learn less. This leads to a degradation of competence over time.

Salvanes believes it is smart to focus on education or further education when the society is in a recession.

–⁠ In this way, you get to postpone entering the work life in bad times, at the same time as you get more qualified.

The lost generation

Student Storheim says the corona measures are affecting the quality of her studies, something she thinks can lead to students feeling like they aren’t left with the qualifications they wanted.

–⁠ Almost everything we do is practical, and not very much of the teaching can be transferred to something digital, Storheim explains.

It’s very important not to lose hope and think that there isn’t even a point in applying to jobs:

Gisle Hellsten, leader of Career Services at UiO

Since Storheim accumulated experience in the time she worked as a freelancer, she is even more worried about the students who started their education during the pandemic.

–⁠ If this had happened in for example my second year of my bachelor’s, I can imagine I would have gotten a lot less out of it, Storheim says.

To accommodate for the students, she believes it is important that the educational institutions focus on the students’ wellbeing.

–⁠ I believe that the educational institutions really have to put effort into helping the lost generation, the corona students, especially those who started during the pandemic. Many have it really difficult, both socially and academically, in many programmes.