Posted on 23rd February, 2016

Just Enough Education To Perform

Recruiting Top Graduate Talent

The graduate season will soon be upon us. Therefore recruiters need to ready themselves in order to source the best talent from the class of 2016.

If you ask Mark Trett, Co-Owner and Director at recruitment company Central Employment the biggest challenge for sourcing talent straight out of university is time and lack of quality candidates.

Many companies we work with seek hard-to-find talent, usually STEM (Science, Tech/IT, Engineering and Maths) graduates from the top universities. They make up less than 25% of the university population and competition is extremely fierce. It is far better to be proactive in this market than reactive if you truly want the best talent from the best universities, Trett explains.

However hiring graduates is not only about finding top talent, but about ensuring that talent wants to work for your company.

Everyone has heard that employers are crying out for science graduate recruits. And you’ve almost certainly read a headline somewhere in the last few years about how the UK needs to invest in science education to persuade young people to improve their skills in the subject.

But what are the facts? The Higher Education Statistics Agency publish updates about who’s studying what at UK universities. Last year alone, the Higher Education (HE) qualifications obtained in the UK included:

  • 103,950 qualifications in medicine and related subjects
  • 81,630 in biological and physical sciences
  • 72,425 in engineering, architecture and related subjects
  • 30,520 computer science qualifications
  • 11,485 in mathematical sciences

Working in a recruitment and communications company, with a speciality in graduate recruitment, I know that the number of graduate jobs available is nowhere close to that sort of level. In fact, the last time we attempted to add up the numbers from all the graduate schemes, we arrived at a grand total of just 65,000.

The reality is that lots of science graduates don’t go into scientific roles because of three key issues:

1. We don’t pay them enough

You’ve just finished your four-year science degree, with all the associated debts, and you’re considering your options. There are some science graduate schemes, which pay a fairly average wage, or there are sectors, such as investment banking or management consultancy, which want your numeracy skills and are demonstrating their enthusiasm by offering double the salary.

The fact is, other industries are giving Stem graduates better offers. It’s no surprise that many decide that science and technology might not be their best option. Interestingly, in other countries starting salaries for technical roles are often far higher – some US engineering schemes pay up to $95,000 a year. So if there really was a skills shortage, the salaries would have risen by now.

2. Some Stem recruiters reject candidates too readily

From rigid selection procedures, to throwing out candidates who don’t have a 2:1, some Stem employers do a poor job when it comes to recruiting. It’s pretty daft to reject someone with good A-levels and a strong CV, simply because they didn’t get a 2:1 at university – they may still be a great candidate and it might be worth considering which university they studied at. In one case I came across, the first stage of selection for an employer’s electrical engineering scheme was to screen out people with poor grammar. Does your ability to use a semi-colon have anything to do with your knowledge of semi-conductors?

Such things tend to be in the process either “because they always have been”, or because the people doing the screening need better judgment when it comes to assessing graduates’ technical skills. But if there was really a desperate skills shortage, issues like this would have been rectified.

3. A lot of the jobs just aren’t attractive

The sad reality is that a lot of graduate roles in science and technology involve going in at the bottom of the department and doing the jobs no one else wants to do. Real high-fliers with impressive academic credentials may well baulk at the thought of spending years earning the right to think again. And even when the jobs really are good, the language used to describe them often undersells the opportunity, using general comments about managing projects, rather than giving hard details on the exciting work on offer. Meanwhile, other sectors that have worked harder at making their jobs sound appealing, are stealing the talent.

So what does all this mean? It’s a red herring for employers to shrug their shoulders and blame the education system for not producing the talent we need. The talent is there — it’s the employers’ fault if they fail to attract graduates into careers in science, technology or manufacturing.

If you are a graduate looking to start your career or an employer looking to hire please contact Central Employment at enquiries@centralemployment.co.uk who will be happy to help.

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