Seismic shift in early careers recruitment coming soon?

This is a whistle-stop tour through some of the content shared at the Institute of Student Employers Annual Survey Launch yesterday. In the spirit of transparency I’m a Director of the ISE, and although that’s unpaid, I’ve a vested interest in the success of the community. If you aren’t a member you really should be. Click here for more info about joining, click here for the full survey.

On to the events of yesterday, kindly and warmly hosted by Havas in their Kings Cross offices, ‘HKX’. Very swanky they are too, great cakes, and just goes to show how profitable advertising agencies can be. The wider Havas agency – although not as far as I can see yet Havas People – seem to have a positioning of creating ‘Meaningful brands’, which is clearly better than meaningless ads, so good for them. 

Anyway, the main event. 153 (about 55% of the ISE membership), were surveyed, representing c.37,000 hires. This gives us:

  • Average graduate intake of 241, (37,000 divided by 153), which is obviously skewed by v large scale employers
  • Average team size of 4, which means each person in the team needs to hire, on average 60 people, in a window running from October to December, when applications close. 
  • Each vacant role will attract 50 applications if it’s a graduate role, 20 if non-graduate, 33 for an internship and 40 for a placement.
  • Average starting salary is £29,000 for a graduate. They’d like it to be more. Of course.
  • The hardest roles to recruit early talent to are Programming & Dev roles, Engineering, Technical and analytical roles and general IT. 
  • Oddly, although Engineering provides one of the hardest areas to recruit from, the Engineering sector seems to be reversing out of the market a little, decreasing placement and internship focus, and recording one of the lower increases in headcount required. Suggesting that the increased demand is driven from outside the traditional Engineering sector. 
  • The graduate market was described as ‘buoyant, with some characteristics of 2013/14 – a year when recovery happened and confidence returned’, but there are some cautionary signs about the future. It’s not all roses.

In summary then, there are some slow shifts in the environment. 

But, I wonder, is that change keeping pace with the broader economy, and the employment market in particular? A world where flexibility and entrepreneurship are valued highly, where contingent labour, the gig economy and IR35 reign supreme, where student visas can be extended at the whim of the current home secretary. There seems to be a disconnect not only in the expectations of students, but also with the way that employers need to respond to the challenges of finding and hiring early talent in this changing world of work.

My degree (Earth Science, Leicester if you’re interested), dealt in part with seismology… earthquakes. One variety of quake, caused by fault-lines like the one in San Andreas, California, are called transform faults, they’re are most dramatic of all. Here’s how they work:

Tectonic plates rub up against each other, slowly, trying to slide past innocuously. Not a lot happens, for a long time. However, eventually they get stuck, and slowly, slowly, slowly the tension between the plates builds. Until pop, everything goes to hell in a handcart, and rearranges itself together again in a flash. Transformational, transform, see? Who says that geologists have no imagination! 

Early talent recruitment seems to be behaving in this way. The tension is building between students perhaps naive expectations of employers, and the reality delivered; between employers who want to communicate one way, and students who don’t understand or adhere to the comm’s model of 20 years ago; in a market where SMEs, start-ups and blue chips are competing like for like, on a level playing field for the first time. 

It can’t be a matter of will there be a pop, rather when the pop will happen and what will be the trigger. Can’t be long – we’re overdue an earthquake. We’ll be working with our clients to make sure we’re all ready – will you?

Tom Chesterton – September ‘19

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