What apprentices bring that graduates ought to…?

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There has been a lot of talk in the media about the word ‘apprentice’ and that it still harks back to the old days of what apprenticeships were, as opposed to the huge variety of different apprenticeships today. So should it be given another name as it still has negative connotations?
This may make you think again, it has certainly got me to alter my view…

Following the recent AGR Student Development Conference and various discussions I had there with other delegates I am wondering whether an individual seeing themselves as an ‘apprentice’ as opposed to a ‘graduate’ could actually make an individual more attractive to employers, and here is why….

When an individual starts an apprenticeship they know they are at the beginning of their journey, they have lots of learn; need lots of training and will have to work hard and as they progress on this journey they will become more and more useful and valuable to your employer. As their usefulness grows their career moves forward and salary with it.

Whereas still too many graduates on landing their first graduate job (especially when it is a formal graduate programme) believe they have arrived, they’ve ‘made it’ and their career will ‘happen’. Becoming a graduate may be the end of the academic learning journey, but it is the beginning of the next journey of learning to become valuable for, and really contributing into, their employers’ organisation.

And so why does this ‘entitlement’ attitude still occur with so many?
1. Something (and don’t ask me what it is!) happens to students at University to make them believe this; that they are special in some way (I will be honest it did for me and it came as quite a shock that I was in no way special –yet!)
2. So much of the recruitment advertising and marketing attracting students to formal graduate programmes talks about ‘future leaders’ and has case studies of current Main Board Directors who started as graduates and achieved this in record time, with not enough focus on what those now Board Directors did to achieve this (especially focusing on the attitude they had to demonstrate to get to that position)

I know that individuals, who land places on formal graduate programmes are ambitious & have significant debt so need their career and thus earnings to move upwards as fast as possible, but it does seem to me the ‘attitude’ of working for it, the need to be constantly learning and improving their skills can and often is lost.

Being an apprentice, in part, means ‘I need to learn to become useful’, so employers will need to make that investment but that investment will be falling on fertile ground because the apprentice has joined the organisation to learn, whereas too many of those on (expensive) graduate programmes still just expect all that training as a matter of course and forget why it is being given to them.

I am not saying recruit apprentices and not graduates, I believe both are and can be hugely valuable, but with graduate programmes perhaps some thought can be given to the recruitment messages being used, and with the activity employers do on campus (with our Bright Futures Societies, for example) as opposed to yet more CV & Interview workshops, why not share insights into what it takes to succeed when they get into the work place?

7 Cost Effective Initiatives to engage with Top Talent on Campus

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The competition for graduate talent rages on. With the biggest challenge for recruiters seen to be candidate drop out due to simultaneous applications to multiple organisations (AGR Jan 2011), the need to build meaningful relationships with undergraduate talent is more important than ever.

With this in mind & following a very popular event with the AGR on this topic, that I chaired, I wanted to share the ideas generated with and by graduate employers.

  1. Work with Careers Services from your target Universities – not just posting ads on their website but taking part in Employability Awards they run (such as the very successful one at Birmingham); Insight to Management Events like at Loughborough & Leicester’s Tomorrow’s Managers; inviting them to your offices to really understand your business and who you want to target.
  2. Recruit more interns and placement students. It is the best ‘interview’ you will ever do and then ‘convert’ them into graduates.
  3. Work with Academic Departments – from strategic activities such as sponsored degrees like Logica run at Winchester or the Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP); to guest lectures; providing case studies; sponsoring awards and prizes.
  4. Employing Campus Brand Managers – with key objectives such as promoting your careers & skills events; running their own innovative events for you; spotting relevant talent (acting like headhunters); creating facebook groups to raise brand profile and awareness online
  5. Running Competitions – There are online & physical on campus Competitions. On campus examples include ones run over a short timescale such as ‘By how much can you grow £5 in 24 hours’; to The Apprentice / Dragon’s Den style events. Or ones run over a longer period of time like the IBM Business Challenge or Bright Futures ‘Business Champions’.
  6. Working with Clubs and Societies – from specialist ones such as the Engineering Society or Finance Society to larger ones with Societies at multiple Universities like AISEC or Bright Futures. Innovative events Societies run include: ‘Dinner with Industry’; Speed Networking; Insights to Internships; Mentoring programmes etc.
  7. Using your Graduate Alumni – Use your best people (obvious you might think!) when you go on campus, those who enthuse about what the company do & their roles AND can relate to the students experience / current career dilemmas.


Whatever you choose to do the message is clear if you want to successfully compete for the best:

–          Target talent early

–          Build face to face relationships

–          Or as one of the Bright Futures Presidents’ put it ‘get personal’.

How to get the best from Universities (Part 3 of 5)

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In the third of a 5 part series some ideas on how to get the best from Universities

With 2.2 million students in UK Higher Education alone, and with so many graduates with strong A levels and getting a 2.1 (see my last blog) it is crucial to find ways to effectively target the right talent on campus. What can the Universities themselves offer to help you recruit your interns & graduates?

Firstly, which Universities to target? If you know the courses you want to target use to find the Universities who run those specific courses.

Also think about the type of individuals you want to hire – for example, do you need more practically / vocationally biased in which case you may want to target the newer Universities. The other factor in who to target should be how easy the University make it for you to work with them – in other words good, old fashioned customer focus. So don’t just automatically think target the Top 10 Universities.

This decided then, one of your first ports of call should then be the University Careers Service. They have always been used to promote graduate & intern vacancies & opportunities. Although it is important to remember that Careers Advisory Services (to give it their full name) are not there to tell students what they should do as a career or persuade them to follow a certain route (i.e. work for you!), their role is to advise.

Activity on campus as an employer has changed – gone are the days of only needing to turn up at a University for a careers fair, the old fashioned ‘milkround’, and expect to meet all the relevant and engaged students you could ever need. There are just too many students wanting too wider range of careers, with all kinds of other time pressures on them for this to be effective on it’s own any more; as well as a huge amount of other much more focused activity being undertaken by employers all seeking to grab the attention of the best.

You need to use new methods to get onto the radar of graduate talent such as business games or challenges & case studies. These can be organised through the Careers Service.

Increasingly Careers Services are innovating themselves and with a real focus on directly improving the skills of students ready for the world of work such as the ‘Achieve’ Programme being launched at the University of Liverpool next year ( or the ‘WoW’ programme at Liverpool John Moores ( . As well as some great, tried and tested highly participative events like ‘Tomorrow’s Managers’ at the University of Leicester ( or the ‘Insights to Management’ at Loughborough University (

Another route, as well as Careers, would be targeting Academic Departments directly.

Working with key academic departments to provide, for example, ‘Guest lectures’ is not quick to make happen but is very effective; other activities include sponsoring faculty prizes; involvement in research projects, the list goes on.

The reality is to consistently recruit great intern and graduate talent year on year, you have to invest in building links with key institutions, and the good news is they are increasingly keen to build links with the commercial world – more so each year.

Peer-2-Peer networking – Part 2 (of 5)

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In this 2nd of series of 5 blogs I wanted to share some thoughts and ideas on Peer-2-Peer Networking and how you can make it work for your organisation.

Part 2 – Peer to Peer networking

How can organisations influence today’s generation of graduates?  Who do they believe most? The simple answer to this is themselves!

Being told to attend an event or apply to a certain company by their parents or University will never have the same impact as what they friends tell them. So use this to have influence with them.

What peer-to-peer tools are available to do this?

The first one must be Student Societies. These are run by students for students. Universities have hundreds of them so you need to choose the one(s) that have the students you want to target plus get a sense of how well run they are and the value they can bring. The Bright Futures Society is an obvious one, both because we run it (!) and more importantly as it is the UK’s largest career focused students society.

When working with a society ensure they are clear about the tangible benefits they can deliver – I think your logo on their emails just does not cut it anymore. I would suggest one of the things you want from Societies is to give you time in front of great talent through events and activities they run.

Second are the use of Campus Brand Managers, essentially these are students employed by you during term time, to raise your brand profile on campus and using their intimate knowledge of their University make the most impact for your organisation. They can help promote events, run competitions, and spot talent for you. Find the right students and they can be hugely creative & innovative and in so doing help you stand out in a very noisy marketplace.  (Again, as you might expect by now we have experience of recruiting and managing these for our clients)

Another, which has huge potential is of course social media, with the largest peer-to-peer network of all being facebook! Other social networking sites just have not caught on, even Linked In just has not caught their imagination, however much you might want it to! A trick with facebook is to get students talking about you rather than your corporate communications department driving it all – again Societies and Campus Brand Managers can really help with this activity.

To find out more do contact me

How to generate quality applications, not volumes – part 1 (of 5)

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In this series of 5 fortnightly blogs I will be looking specifically at how to generate quality applications as in this post recession world the volume of applications has gone up dramatically but has not been matched with quality. I will address how organisations can generate fewer, better applications – a mantra for us here at Bright Futures!

Part 1 – On Campus Events

There has been a growing focus on getting back on campus again to generate quality applications – driven primarily by a desire to both attract more of the right type of applications through better and more direct communication of the brand and roles available, plus to directly spot the best suited talent. But what to do on campus?

Employer presentations & Skills workshops have been around for many years and they still work but what is needed is some innovation in this area. Hence the rise of new initiatives like competitions such as our ‘Business Heroes’  ‘Apprentice-style challenges’; online games; joint industry events… the list goes on.

What seems to be driving a move back on campus?

1. The huge rise in volume of applications not being matched by a rise in quality, if anything there is a decrease in the quality. 2. Career focused students want to meet employers, and have the time to ask lots of questions (which there rarely is at careers fairs) to help them decide if that organisation or role is the right option for them as well as learn how to stand out through the selection process. 3. Websites are generally too ‘corporate’  and students want to know the ‘real story’ 4. There is so much ‘noise’ on campus from employers now you need to be different and stand out. For example just recently we ran ‘Blitz days’ at a number of Universities for a client. We booked a stand in a high foot fall area, had lots of product to give away, spoke to students as they walked past, we did not wait for them to approach us. We even went into the Starbucks on campus and spoke to them there. Then what made the real difference was that those we felt may be right we offered an interview with us that day (we had also booked an interview room). Those that passed at interview left with an invite to an assessment day. And did the students respond well to this?  We had one example where one student in the 40 minutes between meeting us and their interview got changed, reworked their CV and was still early for their interview! The whole event was immediate and now and the students loved it. Importantly did it work? Each event we attended we saw at least 50 and as many as 300 students and from each event we left with students booked onto assessment days.

How to ensure value from being on campus. But what is still missing too often is the link between on campus events and then targeting those met to then apply (unless you run a Blitz day type event as described above) When you spot great talent, check to see if they have applied, encourage them to apply and when they do ensure they are responded too quickly. After all meeting people face to face will always tell you more than their Cv or application form will so use what you have learnt and save yourself huge amounts of time wading through lots of unsuitable application forms and CVs!

To find out more get in touch