Crash Course #1 – Attracting Students: Part One

attracting students: part oneWelcome to the first entry in RMP Enterprise’s Crash Course, a series of training guides that will take you through everything you need to know about sourcing the most talented students and securing them for the future of your company.

At every level of business, there is a war for talent. The most skilled potential employees are going to gravitate towards the most attractive jobs, and unless you can afford to be paying through the nose for salaries, you’ll almost certainly be looking for a more efficient option.

The answer for a long time was to target graduates as soon as they leave university. However, now there is so much competition for this demographic group that it is no longer a guarantee of top talent.

The most recent research from the Institute of Student Employers found that 98 per cent of employers are looking to hire graduates, so you will be competing with a huge range of businesses for the right candidates. 

This is where undergraduate students come in. Universities are enormous hives of largely untapped talent, and by seeking out the best people for your business before they have even graduated, you will be several steps ahead of your competition. Why wait a year or more for them to finish university when you could be integrating undergraduates as soon as they start university into your firm right now?

Over the course of eight guides, we will be showing you how to attract students to your company, engage them with your brand and bring them on board. We’ll show you how to work out if you’ve chosen the right people, and if so, how to make sure they stay with your business long-term rather than treating it as a stepping stone.

The first step of the Crash Course will look at attracting students in the first place. The internet is littered with examples of companies badly failing to interest the younger generation, appearing out-of-touch in the process, and you don’t want your brand to be among them.

As such, before attempting to enamour students to your company, you need to make sure you understand who they are and what drives them. Apart from anything else, you must not go in with the idea that the younger generation is all about memes and fidget spinners; these are career-minded, intelligent young people who shouldn’t be underestimated.

The student persona: The basics

the student persona

There’s no such thing as an average student, of course. Every single person is different, and it would be a mistake to try to tar all of them with the same brush. However, there are some general facts you can glean from the data available.

The vast majority of students in 2017 are studying full-time for their first degree. These are more and more likely to be young people, as while older students have decreased over the past few years, 18-year-old university applicants are at an all-time high.

The student body is also getting more diverse. In England, 18-year-olds from the areas with the lowest higher education participation are more likely than ever to apply for university; 22 per cent of this group applied in 2016, compared to just 12 per cent in 2006.

Students are also slightly more likely to be from the fairer sex, with UK universities being around 57 per cent female and 43 per cent male. Furthermore, while the majority of students are from the UK, a growing number of undergraduates are international; 13 per cent this year, compared to around nine per cent a decade ago.

This is good news for businesses. A diverse student body means a diverse talent pool, which in turn gives you a wider range of skills, talents and personalities to pick from when the time comes to recruit. However, we can dive further into the data and uncover the career mentality of today’s students, to understand what motivates them.

Student career interests

student career interestsThe easiest way to work out what students are likely to focus on for their career is to look at the degrees they are working towards. Looking at UK university subjects, there are several popular choices, but the largest set of courses are to do with business and administrative studies.

Interestingly, this course grouping is one of the most diverse and varied, with students from all backgrounds taking part. The gender balance is roughly 50-50, and it has the third-highest proportion of students of an ethnic minority compared to other subject sets.

The growth of this course group shows how career-focused students are. These are not young people taking whatever degrees hold their interest until they work out what to do; instead, they are focused on topics that clearly lead into careers.

Similarly, the next-most popular group of courses is health-allied subjects; another area with a clear pathway into a job after university.

This is perhaps tied to the higher cost of university, with modern students undergoing tens of thousands of pounds’ worth of debt in order to study. This is backed up by the falling drop-out rate in UK universities, with 94 percent of young, first-time students finishing their first year.

For the most part, their studies are paying off. Six months after their course ends, around 70 percent of first-degree students were in work and a further five per cent are both working and in further study. With many students going back into higher education to learn more, there is only 5.7 percent unemployment rate for UK students.

Overall, students can be seen to be much more career-focused that stereotypes would typically have us believe. While partying and nightclub culture are still very much a thing on campuses across the country, they are not the main reason for going to university. The majority of students take their careers very seriously and are trying to work hard so they can find a good job once they graduate.

Next guide: Attracting students part two

Now we understand how students think and what is motivating them, we can start to look at the tactics you can use to attract them to your brand. This is the first stage of the funnel that will lead to talented young students joining your company and becoming your future skilled employees.

Our next guide is going to focus on this topic, sharing the methods and tactics that RMP Enterprise has seen and used in the past to generate interest among students and start to engage them with the businesses that many of them will come to work for.

Sources

Universities UK Patterns and Trends 2015

Universities UK Facts and Figures 2016