APPLICATIONS for internships and graduate programmes at a major Hampshire employer have risen 90 per cent as the job market gets tougher for young people.

Zurich, which employs around 600 people at Whiteley, said it was committed to running its 2021 graduate and internship programmes for new talent.

It is recruiting for its paid internships, while its graduate programme recently closed for applicants. Both are offering the same number of placements as in 2020.

The huge year-on-year rise in applications came as the Institute of Student Employers revealed that graduate jobs had fallen by 12 per cent, while nearly 30 per cent of employers had been forced to reduce internship opportunities.

Of the Zurich interns who completed placements this year, 75 per cent have secured places on the graduate scheme starting in September 2021.

Steve Collinson, Zurich’s head of HR, said: “With the pandemic casting a shadow over the jobs market as a whole, competition for graduate jobs is even more intense. Students are vying for fewer opportunities, so they really need to ensure they practise and prepare for the screening stages.

“We use video interviewing as part of our process, so making sure you are comfortable, articulate, and true to yourself, is key. We’ve seen applications for internships and our graduate scheme soar as students look to jump the jobs queue and gain valuable experience to set them apart from the pack.

“Completing a successful internship will help students to build their skills, network and employability – which will be even more crucial in an economic downturn.

“It also enables candidates to explore career paths they may not have considered, such as data science and automation where many opportunities exist.”

Zurich’s 10-week paid summer internships give candidates hands-on experience of the business, while its graduate programme runs for three years, made up of six-month rotations between business areas.

Mr Collinson said: “Young people are the future of our business. We honoured all the offers we extended to graduates and interns in our 2020 intake and are running both schemes in 2021 as planned. We are committed to building a pipeline of talent and our focus on ‘early careers’ remains a top priority.”