Recruiting students and graduates
Higher Education providers have the capacity and expertise to connect employers of all sizes with their students and graduates with to fill short-term work opportunities and meet longer-term recruitment needs. Students and graduates bring a wider set of valuable transferable skills such as digital competency, leadership and interpersonal skills.
Businesses thrive when their employees have the skills, knowledge and ideas to respond to the challenges of tomorrow. Recruiting talented and highly-skilled staff is crucial for your business, but can be competitive.
Our universities and colleges equip their students with these crucial attributes so that when they graduate they can go straight into employment and help businesses grow and thrive.
By working with HE providers’ employability teams, you can boost your profile and finding and recruiting the best people for your business is crucial but competitive. You’ll want your future colleagues and leaders to really understand your business and join your workforce with the right skills and a passion for what you do.
Remember – graduates are generally developing their workplace knowledge and will require training and support to hone their sector-specific expertise.
See our Diversity and inclusive recruitment for more information about the benefits to employers about proactively increasing the pool of candidates you recruit from.
Businesses can improve their recruitment of new talent by offering fixed-term internship roles.
Internships are fixed-term, junior positions which help students or graduates to shape their career decisions by offering insights into businesses and industries – with many students choosing to pursue careers with the companies they first encountered as interns.
In order to attract a diverse range of candidates and in recognition of the skills and expertise that students and graduates bring, Go Higher West Yorkshire recommends paying interns at least at national living wage.
Full-time internships for current students take place over a single or consecutive holidays, e.g. over the Christmas, Easter and summer holidays. Year-in-industry placements or sandwich years are also a type of full-time internship that last 9-12 months – see the ‘Placements’ section below for more information. Part-time internships are usually ongoing throughout the academic year and allow the intern to benefit from a longer-term engagement with your business alongside their studies.
For graduates, internships are typically 6 months to one year, but can be longer or shorter. They often begin at the end of the academic year in July. Small and medium businesses (SMEs), third-sector and community organisations might be eligible for support packages including funding towards salary costs (see below).
Employers can choose to offer remote or hybrid internships. If this is a new approach for your business, the university or college you’re working with can share best practice for achieving the best outcomes for both your business and the intern.
Contact universities and colleges to advertise your internship roles throughout the year. Peak recruitment for summer internships is between January and April.
Some students look for part-time work while they’re studying.
Part-time work offers students a chance to earn money, gain employment insight, develop professional networks and obtain references for future job applications. Employers can attract high-quality applicants for part-time roles by advertising opportunities through a higher education provider.
Students’ availability to take up part-time work depends on their course. Some students are available only during evenings and weekends, some can work flexible hours and others can commit to one or two days each week.
Employers can get support from universities and colleges to create, advertise and fill positions – whether these are part-time, full-time, temporary or permanent roles.
All providers routinely work with businesses to advertise graduate opportunities through their employability and careers teams, which is a free service for employers. This includes targeting recruitment towards students with specific skills, or knowledge of specific employment sectors.
You can enhance your recruitment through university and college careers fairs and events throughout the year. The timing of these with differ for each provider with the majority delivered between October and May, within term time. Employers may need to pay to attend to cover event overheads, although this varies according to event.
Since 2020, many providers have switched to online careers events and these have proved popular with many employers.
Graduate recruitment packages
Some universities and colleges offer businesses, charities and third-sector organisations an enhanced graduate recruitment packages to support their business needs.
See the links below or speak to our members’ employer engagement team to see what support is available.
Student placements and work-based learning opportunities
Work-based learning is a broad term that encompasses short work experience opportunities, year-in-industry placements and volunteering. HE providers routinely work with employers to shape, create and promote work-based learning opportunities.
Offering work-based learning is a great way for businesses to find new talent, bring fresh ideas into the organisation and support the next generation of workers.
Placements are an important part of the student experience and embedded into a large proportion of higher education programmes. Placement students continue to receive support from their provider throughout the duration of their placement.
Placements may be paid or unpaid, depending on their length and nature e.g. whether this is a short work experience opportunity designed to provide industry insight, or a fixed-term role supporting the work of the business.
Some HE providers offer sandwich degrees, where undergraduate students spend a year in industry on a year-long placement, usually between their second and third years of study. During their placement year, students have less academic commitments so they can focus on their placement, although they can access ongoing support from their HE provider.
Year-in-industry placements are similar to any other fixed-term role, with placement students undertaking tasks set by the company, and are
Year-in-industry placements offer competitive salaries to attract high-quality candidates, who fulfil important roles and bring new skills to the business.
Year-in-industry placements which are local to a HE provider attract candidates wishing to remain in the same geographic region, and grow students’ knowledge of the local industry.
Many employers offer one or more placement year opportunities on an annual basis, recognising the benefits of recruiting dedicated and knowledgeable students into their businesses.
Often, higher education will involve some element of work-based learning within a course of study. This may be for a continuous period (e.g. every day for a week up to a month or more), or sustained over a longer period (e.g. one day a week over a term or an academic year).
While on placement, students might shadow existing staff, carry out tasks within the organisation’s ongoing work, or undertake discrete projects. Their placement is usually part of a course or module requirement. As students are receiving academic credit for their work, organisations don’t need to pay costs which means this is a cost-effective route for SMEs, charities, community organisations and micro-businesses.
Hosting student placements
The organisations that host placement students are sometimes called ‘placement providers’ – these can range from large corporations and public sector bodies to SMEs, microbusiness, charities and community groups.
Placement providers can be recruited by the higher education provider, or directly by the student looking to go on placement. In either scenario a relationship will be set up between the business and the higher education provider to ensure the right support is in place. HE providers are continuously looking to expand their network of employers offering placements and recruit employers across the academic year.
To host a placement student, organisations will need to provide a named contact. If they placement takes place on-site, you might need to verify health and safety requirements have been met. Virtual placements are a choice that increases access to your organisation without needing to physically host the student.
Students on shorter placements will often have academic commitments such as coursework or exams.
All placement students will receive support from their university or college. If the placement breaks down, the HE provider will seek to support the employer and rectify any issues.
SMEs, third-sector and community organisations may benefit from support packages to help them fund placement opportunities. This can include HE providers offering a percentage of the salary cost if the placement is paid. Providers will be able to share details on any schemes that they run.
It’s possible to host a student placement completely virtually, or in a hybrid model where part of the placement is remote and some on-site. This flexibility can suit both the business and the student.
Careers and employability programmes
There are many ways business can inject their insight into the higher education experience, to raise students’ sector awareness and to promote employment opportunities as attractive career choices. Opportunities may be delivered on an ad-hoc or rolling basis and shaped in response to employer expertise and capacity.
Mentorships offer personal development for both parties. Mentors introduce students and graduates to new perspectives, offer advice and insight, and support their mentees’ career decision making.
Mentoring is particularly useful to students who have less social, cultural and economic capital. Mentoring can provide access to role models from similar backgrounds or aligned to an individual’s career ambitions. They support students in developing their professional awareness and networks.
Mentoring is usually a voluntary opportunity for both mentor and mentee. HE providers support the process by identifying candidates to ensure a good match, and setting out guidelines and expectations. Mentoring opportunities can be tailored to suit employer availability. Some HE providers manage mentoring programmes through individual courses or their employer engagement teams, and some have established institutional mentoring programmes:
University of Bradford Mentoring Programme
Leeds Trinity University myFuture Connections
University of Leeds mentoring schemes
Guest speakers provide inspirational experiences for students. Talks, presentations or guest lectures may centre on a professional career, personal journey, or real-world challenges.
Employers giving talks benefit by connecting with learners and enhancing public speaking skills. Guest talks provides the speaker with access to an audience that they might not ordinarily connect with on a day-to-day basis – many guest speakers say that students ask insightful questions and provide new perspectives on their business.
Guest lectures may be delivered to students on particular programmes or embedded into careers and employability programmes. If you’re interested in giving a guest lecture or presentation, contact HE providers’ careers and employer engagement teams to arrange.
Industry events are a great way demystify roles and career opportunities within a particular business or sector. These include workshops, employer taster days, live projects and other opportunities delivered in-person or online.
Events may also be delivered within the workplace, providing an immersive experience. It is a great way to connect with students who may become future applicants. Employer events can be aligned to a particular course or embedded in larger careers and employability programmes.
Live projects enable employers to inject a fresh thinking to a business challenge. See further details on live projects within our New Ideas section.
Informing curriculum developments
Higher education courses are often designed, developed and reviewed with the valuable input of employers.
Many HE providers have industry advisory panels to offer advice on sector developments and periodically review courses or areas of study. The panels help universities and colleges to better understand changes in what skills employers are looking for, and the broader contextual considerations. Employers are also consulted to shape and approve new courses.
By contributing industry knowledge to curriculum developments, you ensure your business is at the forefront of skills development. Many employers who have these relationships will offer placement and work-based learning opportunities, but also benefit from research expertise and access to facilities. See our New Ideas section for more information.
Some providers run business network which inform the knowledge and skills offered within different programmes of study. These offer employers access to a community of business professionals and academics to explore collaborative solutions to common challenges or to maximise new opportunities.