Coronavirus: 'My graduate jobs were suddenly all taken away’

By Emily McGarvey
BBC News NI

  • Published
Lia CampbellImage source, Lia Campbell
Image caption,
Wannabe filmmaker Lia Campbell has learned some new skills and is working as a social carer during the pandemic

For many students, the summer after graduation is an exciting time filled with internships, job interviews and travel.

But with coronavirus and some employers putting off recruiting new graduates, students have been left with no choice but to find alternative work.

Lia Campbell, a 22-year-old film and television student from Newtownards, had job opportunities lined up on productions in Dublin and Belfast for when she graduated, but all of them have postponed filming due to Covid-19.

“It’s a question now whether those job opportunities will still be there once this has all blown over,” she said.

“It’s definitely a worry. This is such an exciting time for Irish and Northern Irish film, especially for women.

“There were a lot more opportunities presenting themselves and a lot more funding.

"This was the right place, the right time and now a month away from being able to go out and avail of those opportunities, it’s suddenly all been taken away.”

'Scary prospect'

Lia wanted to use the time in lockdown to upskill and applied for a social carer job with Camphill Community in Holywood, helping adults and young people with disabilities to live independent lives.

It was something she had always been interested in but had never had the opportunity to pursue because she was on the filmmaking path.

“It’s been really rewarding and a pretty amazing experience," she said. "Whether I decide that after this is all over, this is maybe a path I want to pursue, at least I have options now.

“Working in the care industry, you’re learning skills that are going to aid you whatever you choose to do with your career.”

Image source, Lauren Bailey
Image caption,
Lauren Bailey is volunteering as an NHS responder while waiting for her placement to begin

Lauren Bailey, 24, is another student who has had to adapt to the changing career landscape,

The Master's student is coming to the end of a ecological and conservation biology course at Queen's University Belfast.

She had secured a three-month placement with the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in London but social distancing measures meant she will have to do this remotely.

“The whole job side of things is quite a scary prospect at the moment,” she said.

“The fact my company is allowing my placement to go ahead, even in a remote capacity, I’m really thankful for.

“You hear all these horrible things about companies not taking many people on at the minute. It’s a really intense time and I think everybody’s feeling nervous about it.”

‘I had to do it’

Before lockdown, Lauren returned home to Kent to volunteer as a responder for the NHS until her placement begins.

She's busy transporting equipment, supplies and medication, and delivering essential items to people who are self-isolating.

“I had to do it," she said.

"If it was one of my family members self-isolating and didn’t have someone who could help or pick up a prescription for them, I’d feel so awful."

Image source, Mohammad Abdul Salam
Image caption,
Brothers Mohammad and Sultan, final year students at Queen's University, have set up an initiative to feed 1,000 people per day in their hometown.

Brothers Mohammed Abdul Salam, 21, and Sultan Abbas, 19, are final-year students at Queen’s.

They flew home to India last month when the government announced they were closing their borders within 36 hours.

With their internship opportunities closed off, they decided to set up an initiative called Feed The Needy to provide food for struggling daily-wage workers and their families in their hometown of Chennai.

Mohammed, who had been applying for civil engineering internships in the UK, said the initiative had created 23,000 meals so far.

“We had this goal of feeding 1,000 people every day and we just had to start helping our community,” he said.

“I gathered a bunch of volunteers from my friends and family circles, and we hired a cook to help with the cooking part and the volunteers to help with the logistics part.”

He added now was not the time to “look for a job or a personal advancement in our own careers” but time to “put ourselves forward into the community".

“Some days we feel tired and exhausted doing this but every time we serve a person and when we see the smile on their faces, it pushes us to go further."