HR · 3 August 2015

UCAS Media’s head of careers: Small firms can get ahead with recruitment through early engagement

Micro firms may feel at a disadvantage when it comes to competing with bigger names for talent
Micro firms may feel at a disadvantage when it comes to competing with bigger names for talent
Rachel Johnson, head of careers and employer engagement at UCAS Media, talked to Business Advice aboutwhat small businesses should be considering when aiming to recruit graduates and school leavers.

As the commercial arm of the charity which provides an admission service to undergraduates, UCAS Media is focused on establishing connections with young people and matching up employers with a suitable audience.

Johnson feels many blue chip employers tend to be after the same group of people, from the same universities, while STEM is always in demand for the skills developed as well asthe analytical behaviour? those who study in the tech, engineering and math fields tend to have.

At the same time, she pointed out that not all graduate positions are being filled a survey of 200 employer members at the Association of Graduate Recruiters reported over 1, 400 unfilled vacancies.

There has been much made of the skills shortage the UK is facing, a repeated reason cited to explain lagging productivity and a hindrance on economic recovery.

In late 2014, Kevin Green, CEO of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), said: Last year we had nine areas of skills shortages, now we have 43 areas. Every single type of engineering is in short supply, from mechanical to software, civil to electrical.

Elsewhere, IT, coders, doctors and nurses and teachers were all mentioned as being in short supply. The CBI’s head of employment and education said it was particularly true? for high-level skills in sectors like engineering, technology, digital, manufacturing and construction.

Construction 1

Nearly 40 per cent of businesses looking for staff with STEM skills have run into difficulty when recruiting, according to the CBI’s research.

While George Osborne’s budget pledged to turnaround Britain’s productivity struggles, some weren’t convinced aboutwhether his plans would effectively tackle the skills shortage. New measures were unveiled to boost apprenticeships, as well as the enforced national living wage.While the CBI said the apprenticeships would help, they weren’t necessarily going to be cultivating skills where businesses currently need it most.

worryingly, it’s those high-growth, high-value sectors which are the ones under most pressure, deputy director general Katja Hall said.

The introduction of a levy on large firms to pay for training was, Hall added, unlikely to equate to higher quality or deliver the skills that industry needs.

With the skills shortage proving an ongoing concern for businesses of all sizes, are there any particular actions micro firms can take to improve their chances of securing suitable candidates?

UCAS Media’s Johnson thinks building local connections is highly worthwhile here. Derby is creating relationships with local businesses while the students are at university, which allows firms to sell themselves, she pointed out as an example. This sort of set-up would allowmicro businesses to provideopportunities for students, establish a personal relationship with local universities and begin to set up solid prospects for recruitment.

Again, there’s a benefit to planning ahead both for students and for businesses. While many start thinking about graduate employment in the September to January period of the final year of university, Johnson said it’d be better to focus on early engagement and build that relationship earlier on.

Johnson feels businesses can establish connections with local universities for mutual gain
Johnson feels businesses can establish connections with local universities for mutual gain
It’s particularly pertinent for an early-stage firm, which might be on the verge of recruiting and thinking about which type of candidate would be most suitable for the role. Starting to make connections and log interestwith universities as to what opportunities there might be to establish a mutually beneficial network could get you tapped into a range of talent, as well as serve to make your business name more recognisable.

it’s a chance to show students what’s out there, and the alternative career paths to what they mighthave been considering, Johnson added. However, she acknowledged that micro businesses may feel up against it when it comes to salary and marketing budgets which is why the value of cultivating a personal relationship can be soimportant.



Rebecca is a reporter for Business Advice. Prior to this, she worked with a range of tech, advertising, media and digital clients at Propeller PR and did freelance work for The Telegraph.