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LBV enters the debate about retaining graduate talent

26 November 2018

Leicestershire Business Voice (LBV) hosted a professional panel debate with panellists from De Montfort University (DMU) and the University of Leicester, and DMU students.

At its latest Meet-Up in September, Leicestershire Business Voice (LBV) hosted a professional panel debate including expert panellists from De Montfort University (DMU) and the University of Leicester, LBV members and DMU students to discuss ways in which more students and graduates could be encouraged to remain and be employed by Leicester and Leicestershire businesses once they finish their university courses.

The debate followed a recent survey that showed that the East Midlands was one of the worst regions in the country when it came to retaining its graduate talent. Just 17% of students studying in the region planned on staying there to work after graduating. Some 33% wanted to move to London.
The study, by business and financial adviser Grant Thornton, surveyed 1,080 university students, examined student migration patterns and aimed to identify the drivers behind where students want to live and work.

Amongst the suggestions made in a lively debate were creating more informal opportunities for businesses to meet students, companies dedicating more time to mentoring and training, and ‘banging the drum’ about what Leicester companies have to offer students.

Anjuu Trevedi, Head of Regional Business Engagement at the University of Leicester; Adele Browne, Head of Careers and Employability at DMU and Leema Demirci, Head of Leadership Education and Work Experience at Leicester Castle Business School, took part in the event, chaired by LBV and LLEP Board member, Neil McGhee at DMU’s Innovation Centre in Leicester.

Jane Cowley, Chair of LBV, said: “I think that it’s great to see a meeting of minds and collaboration between our universities, our students and our business owners. There is a real commitment from all parties to work together to ensure that we do genuinely have a match between the talent, the jobs, the attitude and skills that business requires.

“Everyone felt that they had their voice and we all have a vested interest in making sure that we create a strong economy in Leicestershire.”

The diverse audience included people from companies of all shapes and sizes who had ideas on how to better connect students with firms in Leicester. Around 40 professional members took part in the graduate retention debate, discussing and challenging a range of key issues from students’ knowledge of the business community in the city and the opportunities available, to whether graduates were really ‘work ready’ when they left university.

“There’s perhaps a perception that there aren’t the jobs in Leicester and there’s a n important question to ask ourselves around how well we communicate the wonderful opportunities and the benefits of being part of an SME,” said Neil McGhee.

Anjuu said: “The world of work is changing thanks to AI and digital technologies, and therefore we all have to work harder and smarter to keep our Millennials; we need to adapt our recruitment practices and make our jobs more attractive. I think employers need to engage students while they are still students for short periods through placements and internships, to help them get to know the range of businesses and the employment opportunities. If not placements, then set up graduate open days to which we can send our students to get to know the businesses.”

Ben Ravilious, Director of UltimateWeb and LBV member, said that companies needed to get to know students far earlier, during their first and second years and offering them work experience so both could get to know each other.

He said that the formal nature of many business events could also be off-putting to students who could feel uncomfortable and nervous.

Winter Wanjiku and Petra Szollosyova are both doing an internship at DMU as part of their degree course.

Petra said: “Students can be nervous to talk to people, and networking events are scary to us especially when we have not been before. But if I get to show them who I am on an informal level, that’s very important.”

Winter said: “I was surprised to hear that there is this demand in Leicester from companies, especially in smaller businesses. It gives you motivation to do more.”

To respond to some of the issues raised in the debate, LBV is committed to continuing to work with the two universities and engaging with local partners such as the LLEP to collectively develop a plan of action. This will be aimed at encouraging more of our bright, skilled graduates to want to work in Leicester and Leicestershire.

Areas of focus will include:
• Inviting Alumni back to fill spaces with relocation packages
• Promoting mentoring with students and businesses in a relaxed environment
• Education deliverers to run ‘demystify business’ sessions
• Greater understanding of the market for each type of graduate
• Universities understanding the local graduate type requirement and running courses that can fulfil this
• Timing of graduate output to match business requirements
• Involving industry institutions such as FSB, CBI, IoD, etc
• Innovation spaces to talk to each other and run complementary sessions where businesses can come and meet students
• Working with LLEP to create start-up platform/space to lower barriers to start ups
• Lobbying Central Government Education Departments to reconsider the consequences of the new measures for universities based on starting salaries of graduates

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