Howard Flint, managing director at Omni Resource Management Solutions, talks about the shortage of skilled graduates and how the most talented university leavers choose to work overseas.
Engineering bosses have been complaining long and loud about the lack of talent coming through the UK education system, with crucial science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills suffering a critical shortage. In a paper published by the House of Lords in June, the Select Committee on Science and Technology highlighted the worsening nature of the situation, with report chairman Lord Willis stating that: "In reality the quality of the STEM graduates coming out of universities does not meet the requirements of the industry."
This lack of quality perhaps explains an earlier study, which suggested that while there were plenty of university leavers graduating in the field of engineering, less than half (about 46%) of 2009/10 engineering graduates were able to secure jobs directly related to their degree subject six months after leaving university. Such figures provide a damning overview of the education system, and this certainly needs to improve if the UK is to drive economic growth through the fields of science, engineering and technology. But while there is a shortfall in the number of graduates suitable for working in the sector, there is still a significant number of outstanding talents being produced domestically.
However, a growing problem is the number of “elite” talents being tempted overseas into foreign markets. Statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Authority reveal that the number of first degree leavers emigrating to take up jobs overseas has remained at a constant 3% over the last five years. Worryingly though, in 2010/11 the proportion of postgraduate leavers from higher education institutes stood at a high of 12-15%. This indicates that the most educated, talented UK graduates are being poached by foreign corporations.
Such a drain of candidates, coupled with the unsuitable or deficient skill sets of a hefty proportion of the remaining graduates, has led to a lack of talent available to replenish the ageing generation of engineers, leading to a skills shortage in the sector. This explains why Omni RMS has increasingly seen construction and engineering businesses outsource their recruitment as they struggle to compete for those coveted remaining candidates.
Recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) can, in the first instance, help identify and target potential candidates, with specialist outsourcers leveraging powerful tools such as social media and bespoke searching techniques to generate a pool of the very best talent unique to the client’s needs. But in order for UK firms to attract the cream of the crop, they must project a strong employer brand. Too often in the rush to onboard talented graduates, the recruitment process is carried out in a disorganised and fractured manner. Such an approach can damage the employer brand, with those involved in the recruitment process suffering a negative experience. RPO allows specialist companies like those in the engineering sector to consolidate their systems, implementing a positive candidate experience and consistent online messaging that leads to a positive brand.
Companies must communicate their key messages more clearly to candidates during the recruitment process, ensuring that those candidates considering rival companies at home or abroad understand why it is your company they should want to work for.