Asia: Student recruitment trends

Sep 12, 2018 | Sector & policy

Anna Champion, Founder of The Talent Lighthouse, gives a unique perspective on student recruitment in Asia. 

For many, Asia is increasingly becoming an area of interest and rightly so – according to recent statistics the APAC region contains 60% of the world’s youth population.   Additionally, as Martin McCourt spoke about at the ISE Annual Recruitment Conference this summer, one of the biggest threats to UK competitiveness is the lack of suitable talent, particularly in STEM subjects.  He quoted that there are 20 times more engineering graduates in China than there are in the UK.

Here I share some reflections on the early talent pools and trends in this region.

Universities respected on a global stage

Less than 10 years ago the main focus of Asian-based recruiters would be overseas. The attractiveness of the students at the American and British universities resulted in many recruiters heading off on elaborate recruitment roadshows for large parts of the year.

Fast forward to now, and yes, overseas recruitment is still present in recruitment strategies but there is also a much bigger proportion of recruitment done in universities in Asia.  The reason for this is simple, universities in Asia have developed an increasing reputation and are attracting more interest from the domestic and overseas student populations than ever before.

QS rankings over the last ten years have seen an increase of 60% in terms of numbers of Asian universities represented in the top 100 worldwide university rankings. Topped with that, the best students academically are going to their universities locally (I really did meet a student who told me he was at Princeton because he wasn’t academically strong enough to go to one of the Singaporean universities!).

More and more interest in talent across emerging nations

You can’t get a group of recruiters together in Asia without the topic of emerging markets coming up.  Increasingly the talent we need to reach is wider than the traditional Asian locations, bringing in countries such as Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. 

Forget about the challenge of attracting talent outside of the Russell Group, we are talking about universities battling historic and ancient traditions of learning with emerging models of learning that are overwhelmingly inherited from the west.  All with different cultures, political statuses and history.  Building your strategies in countries where they aren’t used to graduate careers, whilst onboarding all of the talent, is work in progress for many. But, organisations that get this right now will see the benefits in the future. 

STEM talent is interested in more than just graduate programmes

Yes, our pools of students are more heavily STEM based than in other regions but we still hear recruiters talking about the lack of talent pools interested in the bigger graduate programmes when it comes to technology. There is an incredibly active startup scene in Asia and there has definitely been fallout from traditional recruiters. Additionally, more and more students are working on their own initiatives (the side hustle) whilst studying, indicating that things are changing.

As I sign off in the heat of Hong Kong, I urge you to speak to recruiters in Asia. Understanding our market, the opportunities and the challenges of recruitment here, may be vital to your future talent pipeline.

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