106 at the Illuminate Conference

03 October 2023

Last week our Early Careers Strategist – Jayne Cullen – joined a room full of Early Careers specialists at the Bright Network Illuminate Conference who shone a light on best practice in the early talent space.

Here are Jayne’s top takeaways for those of you couldn’t make it…

Setting Young People up for success

Dr Anne Marie Imafidon MBE, CEO of Stemettes, kickstarted the day and focussed her chat on the future of work. In a working world with AI becoming ubiquitous how can we set our young people up for success today? Anne Marie recommended:

  • Not taking a deficit based approach
  • Give space to talent; provide spaces for upskilling and reskilling
  • Reflect difference in your policies to support diversity and ensure folks don’t feel othered
  • Be curious about tech ourselves

An exciting future for Neurodivergent students

Theo Smith, the co-author of Eliminating Kryptonite & Enabling Superheroes, brought some useful insights around the exciting future of work for neurodiverse talent, grounding it in the hard facts about our current, exclusive systems.

  • Over 80% of those diagnosed with autism are out of work due to the processes and systems we have built that prevent access to work for neurodivergent individuals.
  • In the future, jobs that require neurodivergent brains will vastly increase – for example cybersecurity, data analytics and visualisation, environmental monitoring, AI, VR and AR to name a few.

So, how can businesses adapt to neurodiverse employees and make their organisations more inclusive? Theo talked about technology being that enabler:

  • Assistive technology: from screen readers to neuro feedback tools
  • Communication platforms: technology to bridge communication gaps
  • Data driven insights: using AI to understand employee needs, strengths and areas for development

For organisations yet to get started with their neurodiverse talent attraction strategy, Theo recommended breaking the process into stages and audit the barriers; seeing and understanding the journey in the shoes of a neurodiverse candidate is a great place to start…

If it’s not intersectional, it’s not fit for purpose

Mari-Anne Chiromo (MAC), External Partnerships D&I Lead EMEIA, Apple took the audience through her experience of building ED&I strategies through the intersectional lens. Here are some of her insights:

  • Go upstream to look beyond the problem we face: Looking to diagnose the problem, understanding how to fix it, and asking ourselves ‘is the outcome better than the previous position?’
  • Where do we need to be? An evolving ED&I strategy has to be intersectional in its intention. If you focus on the barriers as to why we aren’t attracting diversity and stop focussing on the demographic, then you find you will tackle more of the reasons that people don’t consider joining your company.
  • Think about findability: For some audiences who are in digital poverty (e.g. single mums or carers who don’t have spare time in the evenings to be networking digitally) limiting your search to LinkedIn will exclude this audience from your search. Similarly, ask your businesses ‘why do candidates need a degree for this role?’ Maybe the skills we need can be identified in other ways; translating experience outside of a degree.

Is AI a blessing or a curse?

The final session of the day was a panel discussion debating whether AI is a blessing or a curse in early careers recruitment with Estelle McCartney (Arctic Shores), Kat Miller (IBM), Lana Baker-Munton (Alpha FMC) and Dan Wilson (Bright Network).

Lana started the debate and suggested that there are typically three ways organisations react to challenge: either by fighting back with force, submitting to it or taking energy from it. At Alpha FMC they have gone with the latter and have worked across a number of workstreams to drive benefit from AI and automation, from video interviewing to predictive analytics, AI chat platforms to AI for language proficiency testing.

Arctic Shores will launch their own proprietary (open source) research next week and Estelle shared some key finding ahead of the launch which testifies to:

  • The increasing usage of AI by students in assessment processes
  • 75% of users of Chat GPT 4 (pay wall version) are from higher income backgrounds
  • 23% higher application rate among Black Heritage and mixed heritage students using Chat GPT

The research asserts that Chat GPT:

  • Makes it harder to see a candidate’s true potential
  • Creates a socio economic divide – candidates using the Free version scored lower than those using the pay wall version

More details on this research can be found here.

Overall, the panel seemed to agree that AI is bringing about positive change in the early careers space, but with some caution given the speed and acceleration of change and unchartered waters. AI is changing the skillset required for future work; Increased self-awareness, enthusiasm, entrepreneurialism and critical thinking were quoted by the panel as being key requirements for their businesses in the future.

But, given the future is constantly changing and business units are not always aligned to the skills required, the focus must be on learning agility: “Looking at the roots of the tree and not the leaves.”

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