With more than 500,000 graduates entering the workforce each year and with more school leavers choosing vocational training than university, it's essential that employers hone their competitive advantage to attract the highest quality talent. Katie Nightingale explains why an early careers strategy can help you meet strategic objectives and improve long-term sustainability.

Investing in emerging talent can future-proof your organisation in a landscape of changing technologies, consumer trends, and economic uncertainty. It's also likely to encourage loyalty and retention, strengthen workforce planning strategies, and reduce recruitment costs.

Organisations can benefit from UK government funding towards the cost of training and assessing apprentices, making early careers pathways more affordable. If your organisation is large enough to pay the Apprenticeship Levy (a pay bill over £3 million for employees subject to Class 1 NICs) there's an additional incentive to ensure you're taking the opportunities to invest in your own people.


Inclusion and diversity, and culture

One of the main advantages of refreshing your early careers strategy and framework is to align it with your equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) agenda. Offering work experience, internships, and apprenticeships can improve social mobility by paying people to train. A desire to avoid the high cost of education is increasing demand for non-degree apprenticeships. UCAS research has demonstrated that three quarters of students receiving A-level results are interested in starting an apprenticeship to earn alongside their education.

Inclusive recruitment processes can further strengthen progress towards your EDI ambitions, attracting diverse talent and creating an environment of creativity and problem solving at entry level. An enthusiasm to learn can positively impact your culture by injecting fresh perspectives into your teams.

Company culture is becoming more and more important to prospective and current employees. According to the Corporate Leadership Council, engaged employees that benefit from a healthy culture are 87% less likely to leave their employer. Increased retention creates a positive environment due to reduced knowledge loss, continuity in team structure, and a greater feeling of security.


Key questions for reassessing or developing your early careers strategy

What skills do you require to grow and be organisationally resilient?

You should undertake a skills assessment of the current workforce and compare this to the skills you'll need in the future as a company so that recruitment can be sufficiently targeted.

Looking at your EDI strategy, where are the gaps and opportunities?

By reviewing your strategy, identifying priorities in the short, medium, and long-term and creating an action plan for implementation, you're more likely to achieve targets and objectives.

How can your early careers strategy create an inclusive environment and improve diversity

Inclusion comes before diverse talent can thrive ,so it's imperative that the working environment is inclusive, particularly for those with protected characteristics. Investing in EDI training for current employees is an invaluable way to raise awareness of systemic barriers in the workplace and involve employees at all levels in initiatives to improve performance management, recruitment and strategic workforce planning processes.

What training will be required for those recruiting and line managing people who are entering the world of work?

If someone at the start of a career is completely new to working life they may require additional support to navigate systems, build their network, and develop their skills effectively.

Do you have the right structures to develop, nurture, and support early careers cohorts?

Mentoring schemes, including reverse mentoring, are a useful mechanism for breaking down hierarchies and allowing cohorts to expand their network at a senior level. Some individuals may be completely new to working life, it's essential that additional support is provided through line management, networks, and buddying.

How will you monitor and evaluate the success of early careers programmes?

It's important to continuously assess and reflect on the success and challenges throughout programmes. Ensure that quantitative and qualitative data is collected so you can analyse progress towards objectives, reporting through appropriate governance structures.


For more insight and guidance, you can provide your details here:
Developing your early careers strategy | Grant Thornton or get in touch with Katie Nightingale.

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