ISE experts on grabbing student attention this autumn
Students feel ‘bombarded’ on campus. ISE experts explain how to get their attention.
Vacancy levels are high so many employers are competing for students’ attention through thousands of career events and initiatives.
ISE’s webinar Can I have your attention? Why student engagement is a challenge this autumn got together a panel of experts to explore what’s really happening on campus, what students want and how to meaningfully engage them.
We heard from Judith Baines (Queen Mary University of London), Clare Beynon (Enterprise Rent-A-Car), Rob Taffinder (University of Bristol), Stuart Marriott (University of Nottingham) and Emma Moore (University of Liverpool).
What’s happening on campus?
- Pandemic has had no difference on proportion of students at the ‘explore’ stage: 40-70% of students are exploring career options through activities such as mentoring, micro placements, careers fairs (Careers Registration data for seven universities).
- Drop in work experience: more than 40% of students have had work experience (Careers Registration data for seven universities). This differs between universities for example, students who had no work experience at Queen Mary were 21% in 2019, 25% in 2020, 28% in 2021.
- Mentoring increasingly important: In the absence of work experience mentoring is becoming more popular. Use of alumni and industry mentors has increased.
- Vacancies increased: Reflecting findings in ISE’s Student recruitment survey 2021, eight universities reported an increase in vacancies advertised compared to 2019/20.
- Career events increased: Six out of eight institutions said the number of events promoted to students had increased with some reporting more than 500. Students can feel ‘bombarded’ with careers information.
- Engagement at career events challenging: High volume of events means there are issues around registrations and engagement. Students are struggling with how to prioritise their time and assess the opportunities available.
- Zoom fatigue: Pre-pandemic students had a variety of events to engage with from speed networking and master classes to visits to employers. This semester is predominantly virtual events yet there is more engagement in physical events.
- Labour market is confusing – shifted from employer led market to boom of opportunities. Finalists can be forgiven for not being prepared to look at careers straight away as they think the labour market hasn’t recovered.
- Lack of confidence: without opportunities to develop career thoughts, experiences and skills many students are lacking in confidence and undervalue their worth. Employers find candidates talk about their experience of societies and groups at interview but this is absent from applications.
Top tips for employers
Quality over quantity
Consider the nature of the engagement – a great experience doesn’t always mean getting 50 students in a room. You can have a really valuable experience with 10 students where you will develop relationships with people who will go back on campus and network, increasing your profile.
Review assessment criteria
Students have not had the same opportunities to enable them to shine so evaluate whether your assessment criteria is still relevant.
Embed employability in the curriculum
Consider activities that really embed your organisation into a curriculum. Light-touch activities can require little effort for large rewards. For example, providing real world context for a problem or a data set will get your brand in front of every student on that course. You can then build on that relationship such as supporting some students or taking part in an assessment.
Treat careers teams as partners
University career teams are experiencing the same challenges as employers but from a different angle. Partnerships are most successful where an employer understands the students and the university understands the employer’s business.
Consider ‘experiences’ in the general sense
Students lack experience of work, but this isn’t just about providing traditional work experience. For example, set a challenge or hackathon – really think about activities that develop skills and those that students will be able to talk about. This will help build confidence and improve applications, as students will feel they have something to say.
Reassure and reaffirm
Reassure and reaffirm that it’s OK if a student hasn’t been able to undertake formal work experience. Encourage students to think about the experiences they have had, the skills developed and how they can translate them into an interview. Look at potential rather than past performance.
Have a hook
Consider what you can offer that will get students interested in attending a session – how can you make it meaningful? How will it help them develop? What will they be able to show for it? How will it directly benefit them?
Get on campus
Universities and employers report much higher engagement with students face-to-face on campus, so if you can get on campus, do!