Future Strong 2021: Driving positive change in early careers

In the first Future Strong LinkedIn Live session of the new year, Nicky Garcea and Lindsey Pollak were joined by early careers expert, Trudy Steinfeld, and Skyscanner’s Global Lead for Racial Diversity and Early Careers, Bob Athwal, to get their perspective on the key themes in early careers recruitment for 2021.

Here we summarize our panel’s advice on the 6 key positive actions employers and universities should build into their plans for the coming year:

1. Adapt to a hybrid model

Organizations need to review and redesign policies to establish new standards and working practices to ensure remote working is viewed by the organization, management and employees as ‘normal’ and to overcome outdated views on how a working day should be structured and where people need to work to be productive.

“There’s an element of trust that needs to be reimagined and an element of new design that needs to happen in policies because they’re enablers. Without these policies this hybrid model isn’t going to quite work.”

2. Bring the hybrid model to life at universities with proactive engagement and innovative communication

For university career services, adopting a hybrid model means thinking beyond traditional ways of engaging with students by looking at new communication channels, and also being proactive in seeking opportunities to connect with students rather than waiting for them to seek advice.

“Although there has been the gradual implementation of strategies to do things remotely and online, you have to meet students where they are.”

3. Dial-up wellbeing support

Wellbeing has risen to the top of the agenda for many businesses during the pandemic but in providing support, it is important to recognize wellbeing is different for everyone. A wide range of strategies may be needed, together with helping employees find the time to invest in working on their mental, physical and social health.

“We have unstructured time every day and we’ve had that since March last year, where if we have care responsibility or children, fitness time or want focused time on our work, we can do this between 1pm and 4pm, and productivity has gone through the roof.”

4. Reinforce the power of skills and strengths

Universities can support students by sharing the skills businesses are looking for and translating the skills students acquire in the classroom to the attributes that are in-demand by employers.

“Create a template to match the things that faculty are already doing in the classroom, mapping their pedagogy to actual skills and strengths.”

Guidance on the value of their strengths and how to talk more about their strengths in a way that is authentic and will resonate with employers, is also key.

“I think we have got so hung up on this process of how we select people that we actually forget, do they understand the strength of the skills they have?”

5. Act on diversity, equity and inclusion

A complex issue requiring a multi-faceted approach that goes beyond brochures and lip-service – education is vital as is collaboration between underrepresented groups and between HE institutions and employers to create a cohesive response.

“There are people out there who are experts in their roles but they’ve also had the opportunities and the access. How do we level that playing field and how do we take that knowledge to help the ones that have equal ability and nurture and develop them?”

“Allyship is critical and allyship of all the protected characteristics – race, gender, mental health – we have to be allies and educate our colleagues, our leaders and our youth.”

6. Collaborate and partner to maximize impact

The uncertainty created by the pandemic has emphasized the benefit of collaboration. . Colleges and universities should collaborate on recruiting and engagement efforts with employers (for example- virtual or campus presentations for multiple campuses, recruitment schedules that involve multiple universities in a region, instead of just recruiting at one campus at a time.

Sharing learning between colleges and universities in how to navigate the crisis and support students who might be feeling anxious and isolated, and how to provide access to resources needed for remote learning can also bring many benefits.

“How can we get local schools to band together because everyone’s budget is stretched…. partnerships in a way that reaches and helps more students and helps employers with what they are trying to do is the way to go.”

You can watch the full LinkedIn Live session here.

Bob has recently launched an initiative called the 1 Hour Project. The aim of the project is to positively impact 1000 first-generation students from racially diverse backgrounds with parents/carers that are not in professionally classified jobs. The 1 Hour Project will help the students be matched with subject-matter experts who will help demystify their profession and contribute top tips. The subject matter experts are asked to volunteer 1 hour of their time to help the project. To find out more about how you can get involved please visit www.1HourProject.org.