How universities can help attract diverse students this autumn

Sep 14, 2020 | Diversity

Virtual engagement doesn’t automatically create a level playing field for candidates. ISE’s Stephen Isherwood explains how universities are helping employers engage with diverse students on campus.

Covid-19 will have a considerable impact on how employers and students interact this autumn. ISE research tells us that most employers are planning to run virtual attraction campaigns and university career services are developing a wide range of online services.

In our most recent Covid-19 survey more than 70% of employers told us that they plan to maintain their engagement with universities through this crisis. And students will be more engaged than ever this autumn, as they know the jobs market is tough.

Online platforms offer a great opportunity for you to work with a broader range of universities and students than you may have done in the past. But the virtual world does not automatically create a level playing field for job seekers.

Less privileged students can be less confident, which means they could also be less confident online.

This means that employers need to be doubly aware of superficialities and to give candidates practical support upfront on the tools and platforms they are asking students to use.

Also, be mindful of digital poverty. Not all students will have a good Wi-Fi connection and may be relying on mobile data packages.

In smaller households, where students aren’t living in halls, they may not have the private space to study or work. Those living at home will be more likely to be supporting younger siblings.

ISE would recommend discussing such challenges with local universities. They are offering a range of opportunities for employers to work with disadvantaged students.


Inclusive futures virtual fair

One example is The University of Sheffield, which will be replacing its usual programme of three separate sector-specific fairs with one large dedicated ‘Inclusive Futures Fair’.

One of the event’s three strands is focused on workplace inclusivity – a programme of virtual events covering social mobility, gender, BAME, LGBTQ+, neurodiversity, mental health and disability

The other strands are a range of sessions focusing on industry sectors and an on-demand library. A ‘Matchmaker’ facility will allow employers to search for suitable applicants and allow students to search for vacancies and organisations, both with the ability to initiate one-to-one conversations.

This event will be supplemented with a flexible programme of individual employer activities that will run throughout the semester.


Black history month

To celebrate Black History Month (BHM), throughout October the University of Hertfordshire will be running a series of events to inspire and motivate students.

Employers will be supported to run virtual events during the month that fit with the BHM theme.

For example, on an Instagram Take-Over Day the Instagram channel is dedicated to an employer who posts around 10-15 stories throughout the day, which can be combined with a follow up Instagram Live Q&A. Employers can also provide case studies from alumni whom students can identify with and which will be pushed out via social media channels.

BHM is one part of the University’s Careers and Employment Team’s offering that supports employers to engage with students throughout the year on diversity.


Get involved

Whilst employers are still unclear exactly how they will market their opportunities to students, they are looking to universities to take the lead in providing virtual opportunities to interact with students.

Universities have responded to this need. The following list covers many of the opportunities you can explore with your university partners.

  • Virtual careers fairs – generic and by sector
  • Themed careers weeks
  • Employer-led webinars
  • Online skills sessions – in and out of curriculum
  • Recruiter Q&A sessions
  • Online work experience projects
  • Virtual case studies delivered in-curriculum
  • Online mentoring
  • Jobs postings on universities’ platforms

Read more advice, case studies and insights in ISE’s Planning for a virtual autumn: a campus engagement guide for employers

Read the ISE blog on how to ensure inclusive recruitment for disadvantaged students during Covid-19.

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