How to Engage with Schools and Colleges – FITT Forum

Many employers are now favouring school leaver programmes over graduate schemes. This has required a shift in recruitment tactics from how organisations promote their vacancies through to how they assess candidates and then onboard them.

Gareth John, First Intuition Director, brings together expert speakers to share their ‘top tips’ and practical advice for how employers can most effectively engage with schools and colleges to broaden their recruitment pipelines.

Engaging with Schools and Colleges

How to Engage with Schools and Colleges – FITT Forum

Many employers are now favouring school leaver programmes over graduate schemes. This has required a shift in recruitment tactics from how organisations promote their vacancies through to how they assess candidates and then onboard them.

Gareth John, First Intuition Director, brings together expert speakers to share their ‘top tips’ and practical advice for how employers can most effectively engage with schools and colleges to broaden their recruitment pipelines.

As the accountancy industry continues to develop and mould, a shift becoming more prominent is employers favouring school leaver programmes over graduate schemes. Therefore, it is increasingly important for employers to engage with local schools and colleges to broaden their recruitment pipelines.

This article shares highlights from the session where guest speakers, listed below, joined Gareth John to discuss and share tips on how employers can most effectively engage with schools and colleges during the recruitment process.

Guest speakers

Expert industry observers:

Cinzia Brusini, Head of Careers at Form the Future
Klara Reddy, Senior Lead Practitioner for Personal Development at Ormiston Academies Trust
Ryan Stowers, Manager of Corporate Tax for Saffery Champness
Rachael Saunders, Education and Policy Director at Speakers for Schools
Conor Cotton, Managing Director at Not Going To Uni

UK awarding bodies:

AAT – Anthony Clarke, Business Development Manager
ACCA – Lorna Williams, Early Careers Manager
ICAEW – Lucy Randall, Marketing Manager: Student Engagement

You can watch the recording of the forum by clicking the button below.

EDI

Poll Results:

Question: In recent years how has the proportion of your intake of trainees that is made up of school and college leavers changed?

Answer: The majority of respondents felt the proportion of their school and college leavers intake had either increased slightly (54%) or stayed similar (34%).

Question: How do you find the recruitment process for school and college leavers compares to graduates and experienced hires?

Answer: The majority of respondents found the recruitment process for school and college leavers similar (40%) or slightly easier (37%) compared to graduates and experienced hires.

Question: Which stage of the recruitment process for school and college leavers do you find hardest?

Answer: The stages of recruitment found hardest included engaging with schools and colleges (51%), the first few months in the workplace (31%), and messaging the benefits of apprenticeship programmes (29%).

Top Tips for Engaging with Schools and Colleges to Broaden Recruitment Pipelines

  1. Spend time getting to know local schools and their specific needs. Long term investment and relationship building will ensure you are in front of students at the right time and with the right information to make the greatest impact
  2. Make sure you are speaking to the right people to do impactful work
  3. Start earlier – in year 7 or primaries
  4. Collaborate with other local businesses in the same industry, working together can create a stronger message
  5. Think about how you are giving young people an opportunity to see the day to day of the organisation

What has changed in the last two years in how employers engage with schools and colleges?

  • Employers need to think more creatively about how to help people in the workplace. There is no longer the need to follow conventional programmes, employers should try workshops, skills training sessions, virtual events, etc to engage with young people and help them respond
  • With the rise in virtual working, it is easier than ever for employers to be inclusive. There are more opportunities to engage with disadvantaged people through virtual work experience, events, and online workshops
  • The way students are choosing to consume information has changed. They now prefer to engage with content on-demand rather than live, which is accessible however and whenever they want it
  • Channels available to talk to young people has increased. Particularly through virtual channels, there are more opportunities to reach young people. As a result, today’s young adults benefit from being given information through multiple different methods with a number of touchpoints
  • Apprenticeship applications have gone down as university applications have gone up. However quality has gone up so conversion rates are better

What is the benefit of investing time in engaging with schools?

It allows employers to find the brightest students and give them the best opportunities, as well as ensuring the best talent is found early before competitors recruit them.

What is the best way to engage with young adults who are still at school?

  • Recognise the school’s gatekeepers – find out who the careers leader is – and ask what you as an employer can do to help
  • Be clear about what students you want to engage with (age group, gender, subject-specific) and what you are committed to doing
  • Make sure representatives turn up
  • Start recruiting talent lower down the school to get your brand known early on
  • Brokers between businesses and schools can be an effective way to spread messages to multiple schools. It can be hard to manage a lot of relationships with lots of different schools but brokers are a good way to advocate your message for you

How is making career decisions later affecting timelines in the recruitment process?

Students seem to be more cautious about making decisions about their next steps after school. Mission statements for businesses and what they stand for are more important to young adults. Employers should consider extending deadlines whilst embedding earlier will help with decision making. Advertise positions in line with the school cycle and timeline to make it easier for students.

How should employers assess candidates?

  • Employers need to move recruitment towards strength-based assessment that recruits on potential and the individual skills a candidate can offer rather than their exam results
  • Really look at how accessible the recruitment process is to students of all backgrounds
  • Remove questions that ask ‘what did you achieve during the pandemic?’. Employers need more understanding and sympathetic to different students experiences
  • Be upfront with candidates about the work that will be involved

Advice for improving engagement with young adults?

It is harder to engage with young adults as they are targeted by more businesses than ever before, competing for their attention. Furthermore, lines are more blurred between industries so it is harder to ensure you are getting in front of the right people.

  • Young ambassadors can be a great way for businesses to get messages across as they are relatable. Use apprenticeships and young people within the company at events and talks where possible
  • Employers should explain the benefits of their workplace and the opportunities young people have. Inviting candidates into the office can bring the career to life
  • Be clear about what you can offer and who you are aiming at. Clearly communicate who you are as organisation, what you are giving, who you want, and what you are giving them

Useful Resources

Apprenticeships:

Find an apprenticeship service 

Using find an apprenticeship service

Understanding apprenticeships 

Student Skills Development:

Employability resources

Skills builder

Brokers:

Form the Future

Growth Works

Not Going to Uni

Work Experience:

Speakers for Schools

Careers Guide:

Careers and enterprise

Access accountancy

NGTU Group

You can find more information on our past and upcoming FITT forums here.

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