Recap: ISE Student Recruitment Conference highlights

Jul 4, 2024 | Home Featured, News, Sector & policy | 0 comments

ISE Chair Joan Moore reflects on our annual conference and shares her highlights.

What a joy it was to be in Birmingham for the ISE Student Recruitment Conference. A jam-packed agenda and a special one for me as it was my first conference as Chair of the Board.

One of the key things that struck me this year was a true sense of intersectionality. As I moved around the conference breakout sessions I noticed how often themes of inclusion, diversity, AI, Gen Z and sustainability cropped up multiple times regardless of the session type.

As a side note it was great to see so many brilliant examples of more sustainable merchandise in the exhibition space this year!

Keynote takeaways

Elizabeth Linder kicked us off with some insights into her remarkable career to date and her experience working closely with apprentices.

She advised we look for ways to ‘lift younger people’ up by giving them growth opportunities and allowing new joiners direct access to senior people.

She rightly encouraged leaders to fully embrace reverse mentoring as a way of learning from Gen Z and Alpha.

Next up ‘embracing new possibilities’ saw Helen Cooke from MyPlus, Damian Riley, from Army Recruiting Group, and Steven Jones from Disability Connect discuss how we can better support disabled talent in the workplace.

In the context of a ‘skills short’ market they emphasised the value of strengths such as problem solving, resilience and passion to make a change and for me this set an important tone for the rest of the conference.

How can we ensure in a world of AI and tech that we never forget the individual story, the traits that make us brilliant humans, and how can we pull that into our outreach programmes to ensure they are beautifully inclusive and pro-active in intent?

At the end of day one, Stephen Seki took us on his own life journey of ‘growing through adversity’ and demonstrated the ways in which he embodied determination, resilience and self-belief to achieve things he never thought possible.

With great humour he was able to show that everyone fails at times, it’s how we learn from those experiences that is really important.

Meanwhile Nic Marks merged stats, facts and stories to deliver a though provoking keynote on ‘why happiness at work is great for employers and employees’.

It was sad to hear our happiness levels are worse than pre Covid and Nic gave a stark warning to look for signs of burnout and watch for those who are ‘most committed’ as they are often the most at risk.

Ensuring a clear sense of purpose and community is essential to achieve optimum ‘balance’ – a great example of this was team volunteering days, which Nic said were one of the only things proven to result in a positive wellbeing impact at work!

Finally,Bruce Daisely reminded us that no part of London has a post code where a room is affordable on a graduate salary, increasingly we are living further away from the office, we have trebled our time in meetings and never has our sense of wellbeing been more challenged.

So, what are the answers to these problems? Well small things like ‘meeting free’ days can transform a culture but shoving everyone on a mandatory resilience course will not. In fact, resilience happens in and around groups, in his words ‘resilience is strength we draw from each other’ and we should all embrace ‘SIMCHA’ (shared moments of joy).

Watercooler moments

Key topics being discussed in the breaks seemed to be
– AI: The many ways that organisations are embracing the power of AI to help make their own teams more efficient as well as to add value to a process. There are still some polarising views on efficacy, fairness, cost, future risks, but sharing these across educators, employers, service providers and suppliers is a great way to collaborate for the greater good on this hot topic.

– Election fever: Much anticipation about a potential change of government but a real sense that our sector has a key role to play in the new administration plans for education and skills reform.

– ROI: Reduced budgets, limited resources – the usual ‘more for less’ debate but lots of shared challenge on this regardless of role.

Sense of purpose

I came away from Birmingham with a reminder of what my own true purpose is and a real gratitude for being a part of such a special industry.

All the keynote speakers remarked to me how they loved the energy in the room, the sense of collaboration and the drive to make a difference. They could see it, hear it and feel it. And really that is what I love about ISE and in particular this event.

We all have long ‘to do’ lists and various stakeholder, client, customer, student expectations, but at its heart we have an industry to be hugely proud of – and I for one cannot wait to see what we achieve next.

You can catch up on takeaways for many of the sessions in our ISE event content.

Find out more about forthcoming ISE events and conferences.

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