Are student employer diversity efforts paying off?

Feb 28, 2023 | Diversity, Research

Diversity remains a key priority for student employers, but how are diversity efforts paying off? How far have we come? ISE’s Student Recruitment survey offers some answers.

ISE has always reported how members tackle injustice in attraction, selection and development. To improve our collective understanding of the issues involved and the strategies employers deploy, in our latest Student Recruitment survey we pulled together our related analysis into one section.

This article summarises key findings. We use Higher Education Student Enrolment (HESA) data as a benchmark and while it includes a wider age group, it’s interesting and important to note changing demographics for younger workers. For more indepth analysis and a breakdown of data read chapter 9 of the report.

Diversity is also one of the themes covered at this summer’s ISE Student Recruitment Conference.

How female are graduate programmes, apprenticeships and internships?

We asked employers about the demographic diversity breakdown of their school and college leaver, interns and placements and graduate cohorts.

Across all sectors, 43% of the school and college leavers were females, 49% of the placements and interns were female, and 47% of the graduate cohort was female.

When compared with the Higher Education Student Enrolment data, we can see that 57% of the students enrolled in higher education are female. This highlights an under representation of females hired onto graduate schemes particularly, as women make up less than half of the cohort, yet represent 57% of the students who graduate from university.

What is the ethnic diversity of programmes?

Overwhelmingly, the majority of the school and college leaver cohort, the placements and interns, and the graduate cohorts were White British (62%, 54% and 60%, respectively).

Compared to the Higher Education Student Enrolment data, 74% of students in Higher Education in the UK are White British, with 8% being Black British and 12% being Asian British in 2022.

The vast majority (62%) of the school and college leavers were White British, highlighting a need to increase diversity at this stage of hiring.

You can find out how understanding different ethnic minorities can boost student recruitment.

How representative is the LGBTQIA+ community?

Considering the percentage of people aged 16 to 24 years who identify themselves as LGBTQIA+ (8% in the UK), the percentage of LGBTQIA+ young people recruited as school and college leavers was below the national average (5%).

Meanwhile, for placement students and interns, and for graduates, the percentage of LGBTQIA+ hires was 12% and 13% respectively.

How representative are disabled people on programmes?

According to the HESA data, there were 135,990 students (7.7% of all students) with a specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia, dyspraxia or ADHD in 2020/21. This number accounts for 33% of all students with a known disability.

This is similar to the numbers seen in the average cohort, with 7% of school and college leavers, 9% of placement and intern students and 10% of graduates disclosing they are neurodiverse. You can read about how to attract, recruit and empower neurodiverse talent.

Diversity in internships and placements

Focusing on promoting diversity and inclusion at this early stage of career development is essential in providing students with opportunities to access the labour market, build contacts and skills and demonstrate their capabilities to employers.

This can help to level the playing field in early careers recruitment. Many of the respondents to our recruitment survey understood this role and viewed internships and placements as part of their diversity strategy.

A minority of employers who offer internships or placements (29%) offer programmes for specific diversity groups. Of these, the groups most often targeted were ethnic minority students (offered by 87% of those that have programmes for specific diversity groups) and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds (58%, down from 68% last year).

Diversity in attraction

Employers understand the importance of attracting a diverse range of candidates with 37% of respondents reporting that they had formal targets around diversity. We found that there is a strong consistency with reported targets on diversity from previous years.

Looking at the most common diversity targets we see that 93% of employers had diversity targets related to gender, with 73% reporting targets for race and 55% reporting targets for different socio-economic backgrounds.

Diversity in selection

The overwhelming majority of organisations (94%) have altered their selection process to maximise the diversity of the candidates they hire.

The most common approaches were unconscious bias training (70%, up +12% from 2021), analysing outcomes of previous campaigns to understand diversity (62%) and diversity monitoring (58%). This is consistent with previous years.

You may also be interested in…

How ISE award winner Police Now is recruiting record number of diverse graduates

Will we look back in horror at our EDI metrics?

Three steps to driving genuine diversity

5 takeaways from ISE’s EDI conference

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  1. Why the UK is still socially immobile and what to do about it | ISE - […] than half (58%) run programmes that target lower socio-economic background students. A decade ago, less than 20% of ISE…
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