Pay is the most important factor students consider when deciding upon a career, new data from WSP’s ‘Green Jobs for a Green Future’ research shows.
In a survey of nearly 4,000 16-23-year-old students, nearly a quarter (23%) ranked ‘Pay’ as the most important factor, with ‘Something I’m interested in’ and ‘Enjoyment’ coming equal second (19%).
Fewer than one-in-ten (8%) chose ‘Making a difference / having an impact’ as the most important factor when deciding upon a career.
The research was published by leading engineering and environmental professional services consultancy WSP alongside Savanta, with the survey suggesting employers may need to consider how they will attract this future workforce at a time when pay is being squeezed in some sectors.
WSP’s campaign was launched at an event hosted in the House of Commons in late 2022, with a panel discussion sponsored by Peter Aldous MP (Chair of the Further Education and Lifelong Learning All-Party Parliamentary Group), alongside EngineeringUK and RenewableUK.
Career deciding factors
When presented with a range of factors to consider when deciding upon a career, over three-quarters (74%) of students said ‘pay’ was important overall. ‘Being valued’ was chosen by less than two-fifths (38%) of students and ‘opportunities to work abroad’ by one-in-five (20%).
Less than half of students said ‘job security’ (48%), ‘working conditions and environment’ (44%) and ‘career prospects and progression’ (43%) were important.
Interestingly, ‘making a difference / having an impact’ was chosen as important by over half (52%) of female students, compared to 35% of male students. Overall, 43% of students said making a difference was important when deciding upon a career.
When asked specifically to think about potential employers, over a third (36%) said a competitive salary was “very important”, second only to an organisation prioritising diversity and inclusion, which was chosen by over two-fifths as “very important” (42%).
An organisation placing a high priority on its social value impact and having sustainability, environment and climate change high on its agenda ranked lowest as “very important” at 24% each.
Only just over half of STEM students (53%) would consider working for a company that is not in a green industry to support its green transition. In total, exactly half (50%) of students would consider doing this, with over half (56%) of males saying so and two-fifths (44%) of females.
Carol White, UK Director of Recruitment at WSP, said: “Our new research supports the current impression within our industry that salary has become a major consideration for candidates across the board, though seeing new entrants to the workforce prioritising pay is a relatively recent trend. Salary was not always the main driver of Early Career Professionals’ interest in roles but it has now become a huge focus, due in part to myriad external economic factors businesses have faced during and since the pandemic.
“With fewer graduates coming into the market at present, there is larger demand for those who are looking for their first job. The onus is on employers to make clear their offer and where they differentiate from industry peers and allied markets. At WSP, our in-person assessment centres have really engaged our prospective new joiners, enabling them to really get a feel for the exciting project and client opportunities they could play an important part in.”
Emily Binning, Director, Corporate ESG at WSP, said: “While pay has emerged as the most important factor for students in our new research, salary must be assessed alongside an organisation’s commitment to Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) values when considering a career.
“Business decisions are increasingly being measured against an ESG lens, and social value is emerging as the core component of this shift. WSP’s ambition to deliver £120m of social value between 2022-2024 reinforces our commitment to providing additional measurable benefits to our employees and the communities we serve.”