Influencing the next era of graduates

by 24 Nov 2009

Q As part of our recruitment strategy, we are looking to influence secondary and tertiary students in their career choice – what ideas do you have for doing this?

A.It is heartening that you are looking to communicate with this segment of the employment market – they are, of course, our future talent. Most recruitment dollars are sadly spent on reactive advertising or other recruitment activity, and while this is often absolutely necessary, it is also good practice to take a longer-term view of your talent attraction strategy.

The ideal is that you understand your fu ture workforce requirements, invest in devel oping your employer brand message across key job categories and identified candidate profiles, build an engaging and effective ca reers portal and develop a communications plan. Then it becomes a matter of channel se lection and appropriate messaging to build a flow of job enquiries over time.

But at what age do you start to market your value proposition? I suggest at an early an age as possible – in Britain, The Schools Secretary, Ed Balls, is proposing to intro duce careers information to seven-year olds in selected English schools, and has £10 million ($18 million) to spend on innovative careers education.

Now that’s investing in the future! And while it may seem extreme, it does suggest that Britain sees that students at even this early age are able to start thinking about career options, and that that, in turn, might influence their subject choices.

Throughout school, students are asked to take optional subjects that are aligned to their interests and by about year 10 (in New South Wales at least) subjects selected do start to steer them toward a path of some sort – maths/science for example. This provides op portunity for industry bodies and employers to start talking to students who are showing an interest in a particular field, and, hence, a particular career.

Of course by the time a student reaches university, tafe or other colleges, their path is more defined and it is then an opportunity to be more employer-specific. There is evidence that employers who create a positive profile to tertiary students are then remembered by students when it comes time to look for work.

The channels for doing this can range great ly from; postcards in cafes around universi ties, content or advertising on teen or youth magazines or websites (careerchick.com.au for example for young women), targeted ads on social networking sites, use of specialist publications (Burst magazine, for example, is a career publication distributed to schools and universities), and being present at ca reer expos and fairs.

In this increasingly online and digital world, the face-to-face interaction provided by expos is arguably becoming more valuable than ever. I recall my daughter a couple of years ago re luctantly attending a careers expo with me but getting into a conversation with a passionate science lecturer – she has just completed her first year of a science degree at the same uni versity. Coincidence – I don’t think so. I sug gest this is the power of the personal touch.

Along the way do not forget that parent, teachers and careers advisors can be influ ential, especially in the way they can direct conversations, place articles in conspicu ous places or suggest attendance at events. How to reach them is another challenge!

By Kevin Lodge, Chief Executive of EOC Group. EOC Group is a company that works with employers and industry bodies on marketing solutions to recruit Australia’s future talent