Key takeaways from the ISE Higher Education conference

06 January 2023

A jampacked day full of great panel discussions. Jayne Cullen, 106 Comms Early Careers Consultant shares the 3 key themes from the event:


Growth in hiring numbers, yet a softening of application quality is a definite theme

A Panel made up of Legal & General, AON, EY and London Stock Exchange Group all agreed that the pressure to increase their graduate hiring is being exacerbated by lower quality applications (reportedly caused by loss of student academic and work-based learning).

One panellist urged employers and HE to focus on dispelling an increasingly common barrier for students around lack of relevant work experience. Despite student confidence levels in the jobs market being higher than pre-pandemic this isn’t translating into applications as many of them delay their applications until they get that experience discounting “potential” as something that many employers are looking for.



How to make your attraction events work harder for you?

Removing the smoke and mirrors from the application process by providing as much relevant upskilling content as possible makes for a great attraction event.

HE professionals all nodded vigorously around the comment that both CAS and employers need to move away from a transactional relationship with students where the focus of the event is on the outcome only (ie a job offer) towards a more collaborative relationship (ie a series of events) where the emphasis is on the journey to building the right skills and knowledge to compete and be successful in the labour market.

All stakeholders need to be mindful that information we give to students at events needs a whole lot of reiteration and reinforcement….having someone join the Unlocked programme without knowing they were to become a prison officer is not a unique situation for employers. The Rule of 7 is a useful guide to comms….


Diversifying of Diversity

According to High Fliers some 1 in 5 graduate roles are in digital/ IT and 28% of students see tech as their number one careers destination (source CIBYL research). So no problem then for IT recruiters with more of the student population interested in tech roles than the supply. Well maybe not.

The government has recently reversed their decision to freeze the Civil Service fast stream programme and is pushing diversity through the lens of STEM. The Civil service has recently introduced a numerical reasoning test at the early stage of the process to encourage a greater STEM diversity in their applicant pool. And with over 900 graduate jobs up for grabs the Fast Stream is set to become a big challenger brand in the STEM graduate market.

The government’s levelling up agenda is also impacting on the market competitiveness with a local jobs for local people approach. For those employers already struggling to hire into cold spot areas this will inevitably provide a greater challenge into 2023. Employers and CAS need to work closer to encourage local students (or those open to staying in the region rather than move for work) to be more confident in their local jobs market. Employers such as EY continue to urge students to consider jobs outside of London explaining that often the career trajectory for those outside of London can be greater in smaller offices where students get greater access to clients and work.


A really interesting discussion around levelling up was put forward by the University of East London who talked about the impact of adverse childhood experiences and recent life events on anxiety, quality of life and progression in university students. The assertion is that to support Levelling Up (and the diversity agenda) Universities and employers need to work together to support marginalised young people to flourish in the right environment.

Populations of the post 1992 Universities, often serving marginalised communities, such as UEL,  will have similar statistics around the time poor nature of their student populations for example:

27.5% have children

12% work more than 30 hours and

25% work more than 20 hours


And with more employers diversifying their target unis post the pandemic the need for employers to have a targeted and value add approach for those with adverse childhood experiences is never more prescient.

One example of an award-winning diversity programme is The UEL Diversity of Thought Programme which blends Mentorship, Work experience and industry insight and employs a trauma informed approach to employability. What does this mean?

Well, simply put, there are 5 key tenets of how to build an employability programme that supports students who have had at least one adverse childhood experience that might impact a student’s future chances and they are:

Understanding the widespread IMPACT of trauma (considering the physical and emotional safety of participants including risks of triggering)

Building TRUST through transparency, reliability, task clarity and consistency

Enhancing COLLABORATION through mentoring and peer support


And finally enhancing RELATIONSHIPS


If you are interested in discussing any of these themes and the impact on your Student recruitment marketing please drop us a line at

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