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Pre-engagement for the best early careers talent

Alex recently joined Chatter, and with it, changed sector. Whilst the theory and practicality of the marketing elements are still the same, the subject matter and landscape is very different…

My background is in Youth Engagement… not Youth Marketing… engagement. Very different things. To get a young person to engage with your brand/organisation and (eventually) become a customer or employee, you need to engage with them, not just sell to them.

In many areas of their lives, young people are buyers, not sellers. Things are no different when it comes to finding graduate schemes, and to some extent, apprenticeships. The best graduates and apprentices are highly sought after, and employers can’t expect to sit back and just attract the best candidates because of their brand power within a sector.

As competition for these grads hots up, my prediction for the future is that the competition is just going to get more and more fierce. With graduate scheme opportunities set to rise by up to 22%, without the same increase in workforce, it really is becoming a buyer's market – in this case, the graduates being the buyers. It’s going to be vital that organisations understand their offer, engage with future potential applicants and ‘sell’ to them at the right time.

We often market to grads and apprentices in the run up to applications opening. This tends to be when students are in their final year, or possibly in second year/on their placement.

Personally, I think this is too late.

You’ll be in a battle with every other organisation and unless your offer is the best, you’re going to lose the best candidates.

Solution? Engage them earlier. A year, two years, five? Earlier the better. Yes, it’s a long lead time and requires resource and planning that might be a bit out of scope, but from my experience in the Youth Engagement sector, it works.

This might be in the form of a pre-grad scheme where they can learn skills required to succeed in your business. Fact finding sessions and experiences to help build knowledge and awareness of your brand/organisation. Barclays have done this really well with their Life Skills campaigns – they’ve given young people a service that is so heavily weighted in their favour that young people can really feel the benefit. Their Life Skills campaign works two-fold – engaging young people to become future customers, as well as future talent.

It's all about being top of mind when applicants start their decision-making process.

Avoid the pitfalls though…

  • Don’t expect young people to engage off their own back – they’re not lazy or uninterested, there’s just a lot going on so any engagement has to be authentic and meaningful
  • Make sure they get more from it than you do – the value proposition has to be heavily in their favour, the less you expect of them at this point the better
  • Make it fun and useful – time is young people’s currency, they have a decent amount of it, but giving it up has to be worth their while. Whether you’re helping them build their skills or just blow off some steam, it’s all about them

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