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Breakfast News December recap: PreCruitment

15 / 12 / 2021Rachael Milsom

At only 12-years-old, a student could already be self-selecting out of certain career paths if they aren’t provided with the information and the encouragement they need. That’s why it’s important for employers to reach students at a young age, open their eyes to different opportunities available to them and challenge their preconceptions about certain jobs and industries – all before students start to narrow down their options through their GCSE, A level and degree subject choices. 

Our December Breakfast News delved into what PreCruitment is and why it is important for employers, with help from our expert guest speakers: 

  • Declan Curry, business and economics journalist and broadcaster 

  • Stephen Isherwood, chief executive of the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) 

  • Katherine Dodge, head of early careers at Atkins 

  • Dasha Karzunina, senior insights and strategy consultant at Cibyl 

  • Mike Hanbridge, senior consultant at Blackbridge Communications 

  • Andria Zafirakou MBE, a teacher at Alperton Community School in the inner-city borough of Brent, winner of the 2018 Global Teacher Prize and founder of the charity Artists in Residence. 

What is PreCruitment? A GTI definition 

According to Dasha, PreCruitment is the intentional engagement of 12–18-year-olds in thinking about different careers and sectors, up to and over five years before they apply. While the majority of these students are unlikely to be embarking on a career immediately, they are beginning to think about what they like doing and who they want to be in the future.  

A teacher’s perspective 

Andria offered a number of invaluable insights into the thought processes of her students. Ultimately, they are influenced by what they are seeing around them. A number of students have said they want to be a doctor, nurse or pharmacist because of what they’ve seen happening with Covid-19. Many students have been at home with their parents and siblings who have been furloughed during the pandemic – what impact does that have on their choices? And, ultimately, Andria pointed out that her students want to make money. They look up to footballers or social media influencers, and some students are already profiting from being part of the gaming industry. How can teachers and employers compete with these influences and capture their attention? 

Fortunately, Andria had some ideas about how to do this, including: 

  • Teacher training. Teachers are the ones who students listen to. How can you help teachers talk about the careers you’re offering if they know nothing about them? 

  • Changing the mindsets of families. There is still the expectation on children to become doctors, lawyers, accountants and so on, but there are so many more opportunities available in the world we now live in. 

  • Inclusivity and diversity. Who is representing your organisation? Can students see themselves being represented? 

  • Positivity. Students want to change the world. There are lots of problems and challenges around us and young people have the agency there to do something about it. How can we make sure the jobs you’re offering make them happy and let them have a positive start? 

Why the early bird gets the worm 

Getting in front of young people and telling them you exist can only do good, but a few of the biggest advantages were outlined by Mike: 

  • Building a better foundation of knowledge and enthusiasm among students and reducing the need for myth-busting about different careers 

  • Better quality/more informed candidates in future 

  • A bigger pool of talent. 

Currently, ISE data suggests that only 40% of its employer members are actively targeting school students. Stephen highlighted that too often we focus on students who have already decided what they want to do and are ready to apply, such as final-year university students and college/sixth form students, when there is significant value in engaging with students much earlier than this. 

Understanding school students: the data 

The Cibyl School Leaver Study, which surveyed almost 12,000 school students in 2021, found that 37% of students decide they want to go to university by year 10, and 15% decide this in year 7 or younger. Meanwhile, 38% of students say they have not received enough information about apprenticeships. Dasha explains that Cibyl’s research paints a similar picture for how students feel about information they’ve received about careers in general. Schools often do not have the resources to have these conversations with students all the time, which is why it is so important for employers and other organisations to help. 

View the slides from the morning here for more insights from the Cibyl School Leavers Research and HESA, including three profiles of typical year 8, year 11 and year 13 students based on the data. 

If you’d like to find out more about the Cibyl School Leavers Research and how it can help you understand how you can better attract, influence and recruit young people, get in touch here. 

Enthuse and inspire, don’t look to hire 

PreCruitment doesn’t give an immediate return of bringing people into your organisation. Instead, it is a long-term investment. The timeframes might be longer, but the return is worth it. Looking again to ISE data, there is evidence that the candidates that organisations attract early, for example through work experience programmes while at school, are more likely to accept a job offer further down the line, stay with the company for longer and be high-performing employees. 

Mike put it perfectly when he said ‘enthuse and inspire, don’t look to hire’. If you look at the recruitment funnel of connect, consider and convert, ignore the top level of converting. Instead, focus on connection. This is easier than you think because you’re simply informing students, rather than selling them something. You’re just trying to get your name in front of them and get them involved where possible. 

How to PreCruit 

Ready to start or expand your PreCruitment journey? Mike offered some further tips for how to do it well: 

  • Grab their attention but don’t target by age. Think laterally. Where are these students? What are they currently watching on TV and social media? What are they doing?  

  • Think about how you can gain a simple connection between the students and your employer brand. When you ask engineers what made them choose this career path, a good number will tell you that they enjoyed playing with Lego. What’s the equivalent of that Lego moment for your organisation or industry? 

  • Stay on the right side of the morality line. If you have children of your own of other young family members, would you be happy for them to see the marketing materials you’ve created? 

  • Speak human, not kid. Essentially, don’t try too hard to be down with the kids. 

  • Identify role models in your organisation who can go out there, meet young people and represent you. 

Watch a recording of the webinar here

View the slides from the webinar here

Breakfast News will return in 2022.

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