The graduate jobs market is in a state of uncertainty. According to the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR), the number of graduate vacancies has fallen by 8% in the past year.
Construction, retail and engineering saw the largest fall in open jobs with both Brexit and the apprenticeship levy regarded as partly responsible for this change. Employers are also beginning to replace some graduate positions with higher level apprenticeships. This move does not, however, resolve the issues for companies facing a shortage in key skills. The problem may lie in their approach to hiring.
A biased hiring process remains an obstacle to recruiting the best talent, with some industries more affected than others. The Social Mobility Commission’s report Socio-Economic Diversity in Life Sciences and Investment Banking found that recruitment in the banking sector is heavily biased towards candidates from wealthier backgrounds. Job applicants are filtered based on their secondary schools and the level of their parents’ income in some cases. Notably, one third of entrants to the sector came from fee paying schools compared to only 7% of the UK population as a whole. The report also found that bias extends towards ‘speech patterns, accent, behaviour and dress’.
These findings are supported by a study from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) which found that white, male graduates from wealthy backgrounds are more likely to be hired in professional roles.
Unconscious bias means that employers are not accessing the top graduate talent available. Diversity in hiring expands your talent pool and provides access to candidates with in-demand skills. The digital skills shortfall alone is expected to reach 745,000 by 2017 according to the government’s Digital Skills Crisis report.
Improving diversity can be as simple as adopting the following criteria:-
- Relax the application and screening process. Deloitte, PwC and EY were among the first organisations to remove academic qualifications from their entry criteria to ensure a more diverse approach to recruitment.
- Extend your screening process to incorporate a wider range of universities and incorporate the use of anonymised CVs,
- Review your HR analytics to find evidence of bias in hiring, ie, graduate talent recruited from a similar socio-economic background or a pattern of recruiting from the same talent pool, irrespective of candidate quality.
- Focus on data driven recruitment. Hiring managers who rely on intuition and overlook CV inaccuracies because the candidate ‘feels right’ are recruiting based on unconscious bias.
- Liaise more closely with schools, colleges and universities to prepare young people for the working environment and ensure appropriate skills are taught. The shortage of young people studying STEM subjects remains a problem, especially among girls.
Concerns over apprenticeships
If the graduate jobs market is shrinking, skills and training must be provided elsewhere. Apprenticeships should be the go-to alternative but the system is not without its problems. The National Audit Office has recently expressed concern over the government’s target of three million apprenticeships by 2020 which it believes is prioritising quantity of courses over quality of training.
One alternative is a new initiative from KPMG, which recently drastically reduced its time to hire. The company has now linked up with the Open University to launch a new apprenticeship service. Online learning is a key part of this new venture, which aims to help businesses to predict future skills needs and develop appropriate apprenticeship programmes. Three higher level apprenticeships will initially be offered, namely:-
- Healthcare practitioner assistant higher apprenticeship
- Chartered manager degree apprenticeship
- Digital and technical solutions degree apprenticeship.
Recruitment analytics provided by HR technology will also enable your business to anticipate skills gaps within your workforce.
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