ISE Annual Student Recruitment Conference & Awards 2019

It was a real pleasure to be exhibiting and presenting at this year’s ISE Student Recruitment Conference & Awards. The event was a great opportunity for Employers, Universities and Suppliers to come together to discuss, explore and better understand the challenges and opportunities facing student recruitment both at apprentice and graduate level.

Two key themes emerged from this year’s conference – collaboration and community.

Social mobility and skills were touched on by many of the speakers, and there was agreement that common terminology and metrics would be useful best practice to adopt. In their session focusing on “Attracting & retaining diverse talent: the social mobility challenge,” Bob Athwal and Alice Scott suggested that McKinsey got it wrong and there is no war for talent. They implied that we are all dipping into the same pool for talent and that we need to look harder for that talent. They suggested that we should switch the focus onto Inclusion from Diversity and that cognitive diversity is far more important that sex, skin color and race. Their feeling was that employers are duty bound to create a psychological safety at work so that individuals can be their whole self.

‘Challenge your natural tendency to ‘familiarity bias’ and step out of your comfort zone of competence’, was the gauntlet thrown down by world-record holding adventurer Mark Beaumont as he told his amazing story of super-human endurance. Mark attributes a great deal of his success to the nurturing approach his parents took in his early development years. As a parent, his suggestion that we should nurture our children’s new ideas - or they will simply stop having them, really resonated. His advice was to create value for who you are not just what you do. He went onto imply that as educators and parents, we have a responsibility to give school leavers an understanding of what it feels like to be under pressure. We should help them think positively about negative things by explaining the consequences of failing.

Industry speakers spoke about the need to think differently with our approach to inclusion, to ensure a more diverse applicant is attracted to your organisation. Deloitte talked specifically about the success they have had with removing barriers to application such as: pre-requisites for work experience. According to their own research, higher socio-economic candidates are 23% more likely to get work experience than their lower socio-economic counterparts.

Mental health support was also a topic touched on in one of the break-out sessions, one employer who attended this session advised that one big take away for her was the gap between the support structure available to students at school and university vs what we do as employers.

What became clear to me as the conference came to an end, in an uncertain political and economic climate, we should be linking education policy and industry strategy far more directly and proactively. When we come together, we learn as one and we should embrace the power of the collective!