Rethinking early careers practice

12 November 2020

An esteemed list of early careers experts called for a rethink on graduate recruitment at our Autumn Not On Campus COVID Catch-Up in October.

Sasha Morgan, Director of the Social Mobility Commission, Dr Paul Redmond, Director of Student Experience and Enhancement at the University of Liverpool joined a panel of UK graduate employers including Dan Doherty (Capgemini), Sam Meredith (Enterprise Rent-A-Car), Laura Wilson (Local Government NGDP) and Sam Greer (SSE).

The audience was given an in-depth walk through of the current social mobility landscape which highlighted that poor levels of social mobility can’t always be linked to poor levels of educational attainment.

Data shows that positive educational attainment in certain areas of the country does not buy you a future because education and the labour market opportunities need to be aligned.

Three challenges to graduate employers

1.    Having more focus on social mobility doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. The Social Mobility Commission has built on the experience of the Professional Services industry as early adopters of social mobility and have built out case studies and guidance for a range of different industries. Sample toolkits are available at

2.    Rethinking our graduate programmes in light of the COVID-19 crisis. The types of skills businesses need and the issue of geography have been blown wide open due to virtual working. Is there now an opportunity to target coastal cold spots to fill roles?

3.    Cultural referencing of the world of work needs to be rethought.  Our society has traditionally valued jobs that are clearly linked to remuneration and hierarchy. The COVID-19 world provides the opportunity to reposition the value of different jobs and the people who fill them. Positive messages about downward mobility will be key as employers ensure they have a healthy balance of social backgrounds within their workforce.

COVID-19 has supercharged the future of Higher Education.

Paul Redmond talked about his concerns around HE in general preparing our students for the wrong century – that we have a system born in the 19th century, managed by those born 20th century attempting to prepare our students for the 21st century world of work! Although it’s been a challenging 2020, it has brought about amazing innovation, in a sector not traditionally know, somewhat ironically for change, according to Paul.

Three areas of opportunity to rethink the way we engage with students are:

  1.  Integrating virtual internships into the curriculum has become more of an opportunity as academics become more trusting of delivering content online.
  2.  Supporting academic success. Students are struggling to see a positive future especially underrepresented groups who have limited networks. Liverpool have recently launched their Student Success Programme focussing on academic, personal and future success. Employers could support by providing mentors.
  3. Coaching for students on the new rules of the graduate recruitment game is needed. Liverpool for example are thinking about how to provide students with a safe space to complete video interviews. This could be a great opportunity for brands to sponsor and support.

The panel drew out key points on how COVID-19 has caused them to rethink their own approaches to graduate engagement.

Virtual engagement has been mixed this autumn.

Despite greater numbers of students downloading apps such as the Liverpool Uni app and high registration numbers for employer events, we cannot and should not be complacent about engagement. Online learning satisfaction stats are high only when “done well”, according to Paul Redmond. Employers who don’t think carefully about the new digital environment when delivering events will suffer from dropouts and lack of conversion.

Hybrid campaigns will be the future.

The university space is striving to give as many of their students a blended learning experience with some face to face teaching. Recruiters seem to agree that taking a hybrid approach to student attraction will be the most likely outcome. Being clear about your target audiences’ journeys to application and identifying where face-to-face v digital engagement will add the most value.

Graduate recruitment isn’t cyclical anymore.

We need to be “always on” to ensure that the playing field is levelled. We know that many underrepresented audiences fail to meet early application deadlines due to volumes of early applications as they take longer to put their hat in the ring.

106 Communications is an award-winning communications consultancy on a mission to making work better. We create communications to engage and inspire through our three expert-led practises in Internal Communications, Change Communications and Branding & Marketing. For more information around student marketing, contact Jayne Cullen on


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