Welcome to 2016, another busy year for student and graduate recruitment. We wanted to kick off by identifying the key themes for the year, and so helping you tackle your graduate recruitment campaigns in the most effective way.

While 2015 brought some very positive stories to the graduate recruitment market, it was also a year of change. A 13.2 percent increase in graduate vacancies and 3.7 percent rise in graduate starting salaries showed growth in the right direction, with more increases on the horizon for 2016. We also saw the relaxing of UCAS points as entry qualifiers in applications from big companies, such as EY and PwC. Competition for the right candidates grew, as over 700 vacancies were left unfilled due to candidates rejected job offers. So what do all of these changes mean for 2016, and what are we expecting to happen this year?gradrecbadge-badge

Earlier engagement with the youth market will be needed. Engaging with your future recruits early on in the game is a growing trend, with companies getting their brand in front of first and second year students, and even into schools and colleges. Not only are companies heightening their brand awareness amongst these early years, but more and more are starting to offer internships, as well as work programmes for first year candidates. Beginning this relationship early on means an easier process when it comes to hiring graduates, as your talent pool is already half full with potential employees.

The skills shortage also needs to be tackled. The press in 2015 has been hot on the graduate skills shortage – why do our graduates lack essential skills? Is it because of the route they’re taking, or are they not getting enough work experience at prior to graduating?

In November 2015, Milkround and agency resource Ri5 produced some research in graduate career trends, analysing the sector routes candidates took once graduating. We wanted to establish whether graduates stay in their degree sector, or move out of it completely. The majority of respondents, unsurprisingly, did move sectors once they had graduated. We had respondents completing engineering degrees only to move into the banking sector, and psychology graduates moving into business. This highlights where the gap in skill sets may lie- and show how some companies are targeting those without their specific skill sets in order to train recruits on the job.

The fight over the best graduates is rising. While graduate vacancies increase, so does graduate unemployment. Over 700 graduate job offers were refused in 2015, showing that some individuals are being offered more than one opportunity. 42 percent of respondents to our research had declined at least one offer, while 19 percent had declined at least three.

Employers can begin by reassessing their targeting criteria- who are you looking for and why? Which skills do you need, and which skills can you teach? We can also do more work educating graduates with those specific skill set of their opportunities upon graduation, to ensure they are aware of the demand for their degree.
Dirversity also has to be improved within the jobs market. Gender diversity has been a hot topic in 2015, with this expecting to continue into 2016. And, there is good reason to have these concerns. While nearly two thirds (58.7 percent) of last year’s graduates were female, female graduates only made up 41.6 percent of hires. More should be done to close that gap in female recruitment, especially in certain sectors such as Science, Technology and Engineering. Although improvements have been made in the last five years, in 2013-2014 females only made up 23.8 percent of recruits in the Engineering or industrial sector, and 27.5 percent of the construction sector.
Having diversity targets in the HR department of an organisation is a common practise- three fifths of High Fliers respondents said they were working towards gender and ethnicity targets while two fifths also had social mobility goals.

Efforts to address the diversity in recruitment are being made, with a lot of research being conducted into the reasons behind the imbalance in certain sectors. Engaging with candidates from an earlier age, in their first year of university or even at school or college, is proving a good tactic in building talent pools and acquiring specific talent. 2016 is all about innovative, early engagement, diversity strategies and tackling the skills shortage to make sure the next cohort of graduates fill your recruitment quotas quickly and efficiently.