The future workforce: the need for transparency, support and upskilling

29 June 2023
This month, Henry and Jayne attended the ISE Student Recruitment Conference in Manchester where Early Careers and University teams had the opportunity to come together, find solutions to current recruitment challenges and be inspired with ideas on how to attract some of the best talent. With 46% of Gen Z employees finding that the pandemic made pursuing their educational or career goals more difficult, and 51% stating that their education has not prepared them to enter the workforce, it has never been more important for organisations to support in the upskilling of the future workforce. Inspired by the ISE Student Recruitment Conference, here are a few 106 insights on how organisations can make real impact, encourage social mobility and discover the best talent. 

Investing in work experience & training

As ever, work experience continues to have a crucial role in upskilling the future workforce by providing practical experience, professional development, as well as creating an opportunity for   building confidence.  This year’s High Flyers Graduate Market report found that 24% of graduates that gained a job out of uni were recruited from their work experience or internship, demonstrating the ROI for organisations.
At ISE, KPMG and Zero Gravity spoke about how vital work experience is from both a CSR perspective as well as from a hiring conversion perspective supporting efforts to increase social mobility. Furthermore, according to Forage, those students who had experience of legal work simulations were four times more likely to get a training contract and this helped to improve diversity statistics. 
The University of Greenwich have been making significant progress in this field, requiring all students to take part in at least one business simulation – providing development opportunities for the high percentage of students who are currently working full-time to support themselves and therefore making it difficult for them to get other work experience. 

Demystifying the application process 

Over the course of the two days, there were chimes across many sessions calling for employers to be more transparent in their communications. By demystifying communications around careers and opportunities, companies are able to reach a higher number of students who might not have felt confident or comfortable enough to apply. A study by Careerpass Network found that graduates were most dissuaded from applying for roles due to unclear job descriptions (64%), undisclosed salaries (44%), or the worry that they did not fulfil all the requirements for the role (37%).
Here are a few key takeaways of how to improve transparency…
  • Salaries: by moving away from the old age phrase ‘competitive salary’ and outlining your salary brackets, students are more likely to trust that organisation. Also, with the cost of living and renting crisis, young people are having to make harder decisions regarding what is actually affordable for them.
  • Job descriptions: be clearer about what is and isn’t a deal breaker to you as an organisation. You might not think this is essential but research shows that in order to apply for a job women feel they need to meet 100% of the criteria while men usually apply after meeting about 60%.
  • Progress: go the extra mile in communicating with your applicants even when no decision has been made. Students love to talk and share their experiences, so you don’t want the rumour mill about your ‘ghosting’ to spread. 

Support and accessibility

2 out of 5 people in the UK are neurodivergent, so it was unsurprising to hear from the charity Ambitious About Austism as they called for a universal design of the application processes to support inclusion and accessibility. Applications that are not flexible or adaptable to the different needs of different people, have a higher chance of losing out on a large percentage of neurodivergent talent. It is also important noting that all applicants have varying needs and preferences, the application process should offer changeable settings and preferences for everyone, providing a more personalised and thoughtful experience which in turn, will encourage more applicants from a range of backgrounds. By recognising that a one-type fits all approach can lead to exclusion, employers need to look at what adjustments and accommodations they can make to support diverse talent. 
Here are a few ways you can make your application processes more inclusive and accessible to neurodivergent applicants: 
  • Provide clear interview guidelines: Clearly communicate interview expectations, such as the format, duration, and topics to be covered. If possible, share sample questions in advance to help neurodivergent candidates prepare effectively.
  • Accommodate communication preferences: Offer alternative channels for communication, such as email or messaging platforms, for individuals who may find phone calls or face-to-face interactions challenging. Respect their preferred mode of communication throughout the application process.
  • Extended application deadlines: Recognise that neurodivergent individuals may require additional time to process information and complete tasks. Extend application deadlines to allow for a more relaxed and manageable application experience.
  • Flexible application formats: Offer multiple application formats to accommodate different preferences and needs. For example, allow applicants to submit written applications, audio recordings, or video presentations, depending on what suits them best.
  • Simplify application forms: Streamline application forms by removing unnecessary fields or questions that may cause confusion or anxiety. Provide clear guidance on how to complete each section and offer assistance if needed.
  • Bring people into the decision-making process: inclusivity requires an ongoing commitment and continuous improvement, and to fully understand the needs of different individuals it is so important to involve neurodivergent individuals in the decision-making processes, #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs

To be or not to be on campus

During Covid, many employers moved away from the milkround of campus visits – preferring more virtual opportunities.  That was fine, then.  Since the lifting of restrictions, attendance for virtual events has fallen dramatically, and certainly in our own research, we’re seeing a big swathe of students looking for more in-person contact with employers – especially as they start to do their research on employers.  Accenture certainly have embraced this, as they talked about how they have worked with Handshake on greater student engagement and being there on campus as much as possible – or at the very least taking a more uni by uni approach.  

The AI threat to Assessment

One of the stand-out talks was the session by Neurosight, where the Founder (Jamie) put other assessment providers to the sword – especially those using strengths and scenario-based assessment. He questioned the efficacy of these methods; but more to the point, the ability for students to use ChatGPT to cheat the system.  You can read more about this on a separate blog: [link]

And don’t forget the power of emails!!

We often focus on the importance of social and digital in engaging students; but email still has its place.  From careers advisors – which done well, can still be an important way to get to students; and also through publishers like UCAS, which claims a 50% open rate for emails.  In fact, UCAS remains a strong tool to reach both uni students and school leavers – so a basis for both graduate programmes and apprenticeships.
A great couple of days – and there was also the excitement of seeing some team called Manchester City starting their City Parade from our hotel.  Do get in touch if you want any more information on any of these topics.  
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