Industry collaboration: the key to attracting young new talent


With a lack of careers information in schools how do you sell your business to young people?

All industries have a responsibility to attract future talent. As competition for the brightest and the best of the next generation of business leaders intensifies, it’s more important than ever to engage young people.

In 2014, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) found that nearly 40% of firms looking for staff with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) skills have had difficulties recruiting, and about half thought the situation was only going to get worse.

The chronic shortage of careers advice in our schools leaves a yawning knowledge gap that the business community is increasingly expected to fill. However, there are few genuinely industry-wide bodies fighting for a share of voice for their particular sectors. There is a growing need for these industries to ‘join hands’ to take their story to schools and young people.

So, once they’ve joined hands, how should industry bodies go about communicating with young people?

Challenging convention
There’s no denying that careers in some sectors enjoy a less attractive profile than others, the STEM sector is one of these and within the STEM sector, farming and food production stands out as a sub-sector with a threatening shortage of future talent. Despite some stunning technological advances – such as bomb-detecting bees (yes, really) and crop innovations that could help Africa feed itself within the next 15 years – the farming and food production sector is still not attracting the numbers of young people it needs.

So it’s encouraging to see farming challenging convention and leading the way with Bright Crop. Created and funded by the industry to educate, engage and attract future talent, Bright Crop is working hard to tell the industry’s story about the diversity of career opportunities it offers. This is a story for both educators and the farming industry itself. Bright Crop commented that when they conducted some independent research to find out what people thought about careers in farming and food supply, they found out that agriculture was very low on the list of careers young people were considering.

Mostly they didn’t think about it at all, because unless they’d been brought up on a farm, they knew very little or nothing about the type of jobs in the industry.

The UK’s energy sector is another example of a sector that needs to take action to address skills shortages and work together to secure a bright future.

Skills and performance challenges in the energy sector”, published in March 2015 by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) highlights the scale of the challenge facing the energy sector, where the total number of jobs is forecast to grow by 15.5% by 2022.

The UKCES Employer Skills Survey 2013 shows 31% of sector employers with a vacancy already struggle to recruit workers with the right skills. And with more than a third of the existing workforce set to retire within the next ten years, employers must act now to ensure they attract new talent into the sector. In addition, some employers report that young people do not view the sector as providing an attractive career option.

By working collaboratively, employers within the energy sector can find new and innovative ways to tackle these problems and spread the burden across the entire sector – allowing them to better attract, train and retain skilled workers. The Energy and Efficiency Industrial Partnership (EEIP) is a useful model for supporting such collaboration.

How to win hearts and minds
So, if the business community has been complacent in its pursuit of future talent, what’s the solution?

Simply turning up to careers fairs won’t cut it. Neither will creative work alone seduce, persuade and engage the talent of the future.

Engagement with young people is about talking the right language, without patronising them. This requires a full and shared understanding of what drives career decisions and how to win hearts and minds.

All businesses and whole industries can learn from others and, whatever the sector, the success to date of the Bright Crop and EEIP cross-industry initiatives demonstrate that any industry can take positive steps to meet its future talent challenges with carefully orchestrated creative thinking, strategic communications and engagement activities.

New statutory guidance requires secondary schools to provide pupils with ‘independent careers guidance’ that is impartial, includes information on a range of education and work options and is in the best interests of the pupils. More contact with real employers, enthusiastic and passionate about their own careers, has been shown to inspire pupils and challenge pre-conceived ideas about jobs.

Government actively supports industry collaborating to take a lead to attract and engage new talent to fill the skills shortages. In another recent report – Growth Through People – the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) called for:

• employers to take a lead in improving skill levels
• more vocational pathways to work
• more integration between the worlds of work and education
• more apprenticeships
• work experience to become an integral part of education.

The report, which was endorsed by the CBI and the Trades Union Congress, concluded that the skills shortage crisis would only be addressed if industry, unions, government and educators collaborated on an agreed strategy.

The government has certainly been investing in traineeships and apprenticeships, but there is frustration among large employers that they have not been sufficiently involved in designing the schemes and courses.

Now is the time for employers and industries to take a lead and control their own destinies in what is proving to be an urgent scramble to engage and attract the best talent available.

Thirdperson has developed a series of powerful discussion and discovery workshop tools to work with organisations to help them engage with their target audiences for maximum impact, To find out more, please get in touch.