Is the ‘war for talent’ back on? Not to be too overly analytical about things, it depends how you define ‘war’ and ‘talent’ and in my view, in the graduate market at least, the answer is a big ‘yes’. First coined by one of the superbrains of Mckinsey & Company in 1997, the term peaked in terms of usage in 2007. Whilst it almost disappeared during the financial crisis of 2008 – 2010 (along with the jobs and many of the recruiters that fought said war – remember Lehman Brothers?), it has now started to crop up again

How can this be I hear you cry? Well, despite all the general doom and gloom about the ‘cuts’ and ‘recession’ (even though we actually came of recession over 15 months ago) the demand for the very brightest and most employable people is on the move again. Whilst 20% of graduates are unemployed after two years, the top 20% (arguably the real ‘talent’) are being fought over. Whilst this is not quite a ‘war’ in the military sense, certainly it as close to one as the corporates probably get. There are ‘strategies’ being planned for this year’s milkround ‘campaigns’ and significant resources being deployed with the heads of the business demanding ‘clear wins’ from their recruitment teams. The wining and dining of star students, intimate dinners with big hitters from the business brought out to impress are all back on the agenda. Whilst this top talent of the academic and employable will always flourish, there is now a shortage of enough employable graduates with many recruiters failing to meet their targets and many, many graduate jobs sitting empty because firms just can’t find people of the right calibre at a price they are willing to pay. The sad thing about all this is that the ‘talent’ is very much there – if you define talent as clever people willing to work hard, however it is latent and often not fulfilling its potential and instead working in pubs and restaurants (!)

Due to a career ruining combination of often (though not always) poor employability and skills training plus weak career advice, much of the ‘talent’ the UK pays so much to produce through the Higher Education systems is simply not working for the country. These students may be ‘talented’ but far too many of them are sadly not as employable (re skills and work experience) as they should be. So yes, ‘the war for talent’ is firmly back on as the economy recovers and leading firms need to replenish their cadres of future leaders – the key test now is to convert academic talent to economic talent and help the country’s next generation of bright young things secure the jobs they want, rather than consign them to pulling pints for another year. This is the real challenge and one that if the country can rise to the challenge means that unlike most wars, everyone should be a winner.