The Graduate Recruitment and Development forum, organised by Symposium Events and held last week in Canary Wharf, provided an opportunity for industry leaders to share best practices across different sectors. Participants attended a range of workshops organised in different streams and shared their knowledge with other professionals in focused networking sessions.

The attention of the conference was focused on three main points: providing insights on the developments in the recruitment market, underlining the major challenges that need to be tackled, and suggesting strategies that can help businesses maximise graduate opportunities.

The recent changes in recruitment and graduate education were analysed in the first part of the conference. The academic sector is currently experiencing a growth in the demand for subjects such as Economics and IT, along with a shift in expectations, with most students now targeting universities to get a job rather than a degree. The impact of the digital revolution, on the other hand, has profoundly transformed the resourcing function. Mobile recruitment, for instance, is critical, and not having a mobile friendly web site equals losing potential talents. Among other trends, an increase was reported in the use of social media for employer branding and attracting candidates.

Likewise, video interviews are becoming more popular, though face-to-face interviews and assessment centres still tend to be more widespread. Most importantly, recruitment has become more and more a global practice and sourcing international talents can help address the skills shortage problem which has historically affected industry sectors such as engineering and IT.

In regards to the challenges facing the recruitment industry, youth (and women) unemployment seems by far the most crucial and is quantified in a 10 billion pound loss of lost output. With statistics recently showing that 1 out of 5 young people in UK are not employed and not pursuing any education, and that 40% of young out of jobs tend to experience mental illnesses, this is an issue that requires urgent addressing.

Retention is a further key challenge for employers. With 16 to 25% of graduates leaving their jobs within the first 18 months, professionals were advised to reconsider how to adequately develop and reward talents and how to meet candidate expectations when hiring.

The last stream of the Graduate Recruitment conference indicated a number of strategies to address the above challenges. Examples have shown that investing in early career programmes and in ‘buy and build’ approaches can lead to positive outcomes. Apprenticeships, for instance, were recommended as effective means to tackle unemployment and provide young people with ‘earn while you learn’ opportunities. Company-sponsored degrees, likewise, have provided businesses indications on how to grow your own talents and increase retention levels.

Article by Sergio Russo, HR journalist