Take-aways from the ISE conference (including the bucket hats)

22 July 2022

In Brighton. At The Grand.  The sun’s shining.  And 300 people are ready for the first ISE in-person conference for three years.

Over the course of two days, employers, careers services and suppliers shared a range of insights and perspectives.

So what were the key themes?  Did Covid still loom large over the student population?  What new innovations would we see?  Would the Grand live up to expectation?  And who would have the best giveaways?

Here are our top take-aways.

The Generation Myth – Professor Bobby Duffy from Kings College London opened up proceedings with a cracking talk on The Generation Myth.  We’ve long adhered to his thinking that there are far fewer distinctions between generations than the Daily Mail would have you believe.  Of course, there are some differences, and in particular the wealth of Millennials and GenZ V Baby Boomers is painful to see.  But in general, this talk reminded us that there are more similarities than differences, and many of the fundamental human motivations and behaviours haven’t changed a great deal.

Purpose is passion, opportunity and pay – In Eduardo Plastino’s talk on The Purpose Gap, it was interesting to hear what constitutes purpose for graduates.  It isn’t simply a commitment to a worthy cause, it is a triangulation of Passion, Work/Life Balance and Pay.  They are interlinked, and we should remember that it’s not about pursuing your own personal agenda, but committing to a passion, as well as having the flexibility and pay to fulfil your aspirations.

Talent Pools and the Business Case – Inflation, the competition for talent, the cost of experienced hiring – for some organisations, these pressures have pushed them to double-down on early careers recruitment.  We heard from Autotrader about how a shortage of developers in the North West drove them to focus on early careers as a way to create a new talent pipeline.  Of course, it takes time, but the results were impressive.  Over three years, they’ve effectively grown their own pool of 60 developers.  One of their best innovations was to give school leavers, who may not quite have the skills to join now, a taste of the work at Autotrader and encourage them to come back in the future.  Interestingly, this has really helped them to bring more female junior developers into the business.  We saw a similar ‘taster’ approach from Accenture to help young people understand that technology is a career they could do.

Equity rather than simply D&I – We heard a lot more about the concept of equity rather than simply diversity and inclusion – and this is a welcome move.  Anne-Marie Imafidon nicely illustrated the importance of equity and also called out some pretty unfathomable behaviour (whether intentional or not) which leads to products and services not fit for certain people – “from seat belts killing women and children initially, to the period tracker. God forbid you have a period that’s longer than ten days – these apps just doesn’t allow you to track your periods beyond that”.

Positive action – So many of the case studies showed positive action in trying to reach under-represented groups; for example, partnering with charities such as Change100 and Ambitious About Autism (both examples from AutoTrader), but also providing accelerated progression; and of course, programmes like 10,000 Black Interns which blatantly focus on one group of people.  We are biased but we loved hearing the 4x Interns that came through 10,000 Black Interns, talking about how to leverage cultural trends to reach under-represented groups.

Student Mental Wellbeing – Hearing from Juliet … from KCL was fascinating.  We almost imagined that this would be a valediction of why we should focus much more on student mental health – and in some ways, yes, it was.  But what was fascinating was how much Juliet’s research showed that it’s not necessarily that students have more mental health issues, it’s that there is a much greater focus on supporting them – whether unis or employers.

Reneges and Reserves – When you’re setting out establishing a new programme or trying to show its worth to the business, the last thing you need are ‘no shows’ or people leaving soon after they have started.  As Vanessa Soames pointed out, it’s actually better to have reneges at the offer stage than have the risk of people leaving once they’ve joined.  This isn’t a good look for a professional recruitment team – no matter how much you can say it wasn’t your fault.  What’s better is to have the reneges and ensure you’ve got a good reserve list, so that the business is shielded from any problems.

Conference Experience (and Merch) – It was great to be with student employers and partners once again after such a long time.  And it’s great to be by the sea.  Being from Brighton, Zoe Lyons was a natural choice to host the awards – and she didn’t disappoint.  Congratulations to all the award winners.  Our own award for ‘merch’ goes to Handshake.  We loved the bucket hats!


All in all, this was a 2-day conference packed full of interesting content and speakers, with the right amount of theory and big-picture perspective as well as case studies and key day-to-day insights.  Plus we were right by the beach.  (No pictures of Henry taking an early-moning dip in the sea, fortunately!)




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