3 Trends: Evolution of the undergraduate market

Mar 14, 2018 | Attraction & marketing

RMP Enterprise co-founder Oliver Sidwell looks back at 10 years of the National Undergraduate Employability Awards to share the trends that define our industry today and in the future.

On Friday 1st March, Dame Kelly Holmes joined us to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the National Undergraduate Employability Awards. Over the last ten years, the Awards has celebrated excellence across all stakeholders involved in undergraduate work experience. 

In that time, the undergraduate market has changed immeasurably. Students have changed. The world has changed! The 10th anniversary really made us look back and see how much the market has transformed. 

Here are three key trends that define the evolution of the undergraduate market, and look forward to what the future holds.


1. Technology

Technology has transformed student attraction and recruitment. Representing RateMyPlacement.co.uk, we travelled the length and breadth of the country attending fairs. We used to collect student data by pen and paper, and type the email addresses into a database days later. 

Today, the evolution of data capture software and marketing automation platforms now enable immediate, professional and a GDPR-happy user journey for students. When students sign up to hear from an employer, they receive an automated email. It feeds their desire for instant gratification and also means employers can help save the planet. 

The use of video interviewing and game-based assessments has increased too. As a result, face-to-face interaction in the recruitment process has fallen. It might explain why 7% of ISE members had students renege on offers (2016). Is the fall in human interaction the cause? 


2. Media

In 2010 it was the mass jobs boards, Target, Milkround and Prospects that dominated the market. Over the past ten years, the market has moved more towards niche jobs boards for specific demographics. 

A similar trend has followed on social media too. It’s a movement from mass to targeted marketing and advertising. This comes in the form of behavioural retargeted advertising which allows you to serve students with adverts based on their behaviour.

I’m sure you’ve all been shopping online, considered buying something, but not added it to your basket, only to see that product follow you around the internet. We’re now able to do that with jobs, personalising the candidate experience. 


3. Brand perceptions

Having an overall employer brand is very much a thing of the past. To stay competitive, companies today need to adapt their brand for students – 67% of students want to work for a business that is socially responsible and 75% would take a pay cut to work for a more socially responsible business.

In today’s hyper-connected world, young people see themselves as global citizens and want to make a difference. Their decisions are driven more by their values than any other generation. They want brands in glass boxes. 

Through CSR initiatives, brands have an opportunity to actively declare their values, ethics and brand messaging to ensure students believe in their brand.


So what does the future hold?

The undergraduate market has transformed in the last ten years, but what about the next ten? 

Insights. Whether it’s an open day or two-to-three week insight scheme, these shorter-term schemes are on the rise with 33% more opportunities offered across all of RateMyPlacement’s Top Undergraduate Employers in 2018/19. 

At the NUE Awards, DLA Piper won ‘Best Short-term Insight Scheme’ and with over 90% of graduates entering their organisation having completed their three-week scheme, it’s an incredibly successful pipeline for attracting, educating and onboarding early talent.

Reneges will continue to rise. The increase of automation and technology in recruitment will take further human interaction out of the process. Students may be digital natives, but when they’re looking for a career, 96% crave face-to-face interaction. Employers who are able to offer a more personalised, human process may need more resource, but they’d see far more loyalty.

Collaborations. One of my favourite categories at the NUE Awards is ‘Best Collaboration between a University and Employer’. It rewards specific employers partnering with universities, and this year was won by Staffordshire University and Staffordshire Police. Their partnership reduced the time from crime scene to evaluation, drove a safer society and saw those on the scheme score 17% higher in their degree than their peers. That’s almost two degree classifications.

Alongside the growth of the NUE Awards over the last ten years, we have seen ever more employers investing in attracting and retaining undergraduate talent. I’m even prouder to see an increasing number of universities investing in employability. Students make a significant investment when they go to university, and they are getting a better return on that investment as their university helps them find career-starting work experience. 

Hear more from me on The Early Careers Podcast, episode four focuses on rejects and reneges.

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