What can we expect from student recruitment and development in 2023?

Jan 5, 2023 | Opinion, Sector & policy, You might have missed

After the turbulence of 2022, ISE’s CEO Stephen Isherwood looks ahead at student recruitment and development and hopes for a bit more stability in the coming year.

We’ve had the same education ministers for nearly three months and inflation, whilst still at a 40-year high, has dropped back slightly. But with the recession due to last through 2023, industrial unrest across the UK and no end in sight to the Ukraine War, the future is certainly uncertain.

Here are my three predictions for student recruitment and development in 2023:

  • Vacancy levels will remain uncertain, but not fall sharply
  • Education policy will focus on apprentices, schools and colleges – not universities
  • Employers will increase their focus on student welfare through selection and onboarding

Firstly, recruitment levels. At the start of the current recruitment season we predicted overall growth in vacancies of 6%. But with the UK in recession, shouldn’t the numbers be falling as they did in the financial crash of 2008 and at the outbreak of Covid in 2020?

The reality is that the labour market is still constrained: unemployment is low and demand from employers is high. This doesn’t mean that graduates can be complacent, the graduate labour market is always highly competitive whatever the economic outlook.

Employers have also told us that vacancies will grow at a faster rate for apprentices than graduates.

Robert Halfon, Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships & Higher Education, has spoken of his “two favourite words in the English language: degree and apprenticeships”.

And if you follow Robert’s twitter feed, you’ll quickly notice that the majority of his comments are focused on skills development, ladders of opportunities, and college/schools issues. There is surprisingly little about higher education.

We’ll keep a close watch on recruitment levels as the year progresses, and if you want to understand the latest developments across the apprenticeships sector, it’s not too late to book a place at our Delivering Apprentices Conference on 19 January.

All our main conferences are in-person this year. If your role is focused on development, join us in Central London on 30 March for our Student Development Conference. In June, we’ll be back in Manchester for our annual Recruitment Conference and Gala Awards Dinner.

One theme that will run across all our events this year is student welfare. We already know that students report lower mental health levels than the rest of the adult population. Universities have increased mental health support and students are going to expect similar from employers.

Rent and food inflation is running at far higher levels than the increase in maintenance support for 2022/23, which the treasury based on an inflation forecast of 2.3%.

A recurring question on our recent sector forums is the financial challenge some students are facing when starting work. Employers have asked how to get funds to students to help with relocation and other expenses as they start work. This isn’t easily solvable when new hires aren’t on the payroll.

If you want to join the latest debates on our forums, be sure to check dates on our events calendar for a full list of upcoming online events. Most of these last only an hour and are a great way to share issues and get advice from others.

And finally, some ISE team news. We have had a bit of a New Year reshuffle at the ISE and Sarah Hathaway has stepped up from COO to joint CEO. Sarah will lead on membership value, engagement and growth, alongside all aspects of governance, finance and operational requirements. I will focus on market intelligence, analysis, thought leadership and policy direction.

Throughout 2023 we will be supporting all of our employer, education and supplier members to achieve best practice in student recruitment and development.


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