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Recfest: Advice from our employer panel

On 17th September 2021, RecFest took place as a hybrid event which included a “real life” event that ran alongside a series of online talks discussing all things recruitment, all early careers and talent attraction. NGTU Group hosted both a student talk and employer talk where our NGTU hosts were joined by a panel of students/employer experts to discuss how they had found the lockdown period.


Within this blog, we are going to explore the key points made by our employer panel, which was made up of Bina Atherley, Early Careers Advisor at Atkins, Emma Wood, Talent Acquisition Partner at AstraZeneca, and Danny Matthews, Early Careers & Community Recruitment Lead at The Co-operative Group. The key question the panel explored was “How can we help young people make their first step into their career with confidence?”


Following their introductions, each employer shared what they have been working on during the pandemic to support young people to access early careers opportunities. The key points raised included:


Bina shared that she found ensuring there is a good level of transparency and letting young people know that they are still there and still actively recruiting, despite the virtual processes that had been put in place, was helpful to keeping applicants engaged and applications up throughout the pandemic.


Bina also advised that Atkins added a chat function to their website to allow potential applicants speak to current apprentices and graduates to help them to make informed decisions. This worked well and is something that they are going to continue post pandemic.


Danny added that Co-Op moved their assessments online, allowing them to recruit more diverse talent in terms of location as both the assessment and position was remote. They have also invested in an employability platform to help young people prepare for their interviews, this includes an AI led interview platform and an online CV checkers. They saw a large number of applications but were key to avoid being a “mass rejecter” and give all candidates support to apply and gain feedback on their applications.


In addition to this, Co-Op have created a careers offer for secondary schools and sixth forms, as well as doing their first virtual work experience which they are planning to continue next year. This is a 6 week programme that includes support from their suppliers as well as a range of in house teams.


AstraZeneca are in the process of developing their work experience programme which will be a more inclusive and wider offer than they have previously offered students. This offer is currently at pilot stage. They are also looking to work more closely with local schools in the two main areas where they employ apprentices. An emphasis was put on cooperation and collaboration to put assets together with other employers to create a large impact for young people.


Bina suggested that another key thing for employers to consider when starting work with schools is to ensure they are measuring impact based on the influence on the young people rather than purely measuring the number of young people reached. Also to find a way to embed yourself in schools to support across year groups rather than just focus on one singular input with a large number of schools.


In summary, the key points raised that employers looking to increase their early careers offer will find useful include:

  • Share your opportunities as widely as you can to tell people you are recruiting

  • Allow current employees to host live chats and online functions that allow applicants to ask questions

  • Provide application support, especially to young people

  • Work with secondary schools, colleges and sixth forms to spread the word about your offer, this can be through VWEX, employer talks or live employee Q&As

  • Work together with other employers to create impactful programmes for young people

  • Measure impact, not just reach


For support with any element of your early careers offer, please get in touch.


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