Attracting and Retaining Talent a DCBC Conference Summary

9 Jul 2017

DCBC’s latest conference on 30th June (full agenda and presentations available here) saw business leaders from across Devon and Cornwall descend on the University of Plymouth for a detailed look at the issue of attracting and retaining talent in support of our regional economy.

The conference was split into two sections, the first, looking at national graduate migration patterns, along with regional labour market characteristics. The second section focused on local and regional challenges and existing solutions provided by organisations already charged with improving the number of talented people calling this part of the world home.

Dr Charlie Ball, Head of Higher Education Intelligence at Graduate Prospects, kicked off proceedings. Charlie is tasked with providing support to higher education careers and employability provision, being a specialist on UK graduate employment and the skilled jobs market. Some of the key points he made during his keynote presentation included:

  • The proportion of the UK workforce with a degree (NVQ4+) has risen from 30.3% in 2004 to 43.5% in 2016 and aside from NVQ3+ (which saw a small rise) all other qualification bands saw falls during this period.

  • Across the UK, between 2006 and 2016, there were large increases in professional occupations and leisure and care related jobs but falls in administrative/secretarial, machine operatives and skilled trades. This is roughly similar for 2016 alone.

  • In 2016, Cornwall saw a net increase of 16,000 professional level jobs and the percentage of the workforce with a degree increased from 33.1% to 36.4%. Devon saw a net loss of 35,500 professional level jobs, with 24,300 few people working the county. Plymouth saw a net increase of 4,500 professional level jobs and the proportion of the workforce with a degree jumped from 33.3% to 37.4%

  • The hardest graduate vacancies to fill are: Quantity Surveyors (77% vacancies), Mechanical Engineers (72%), Vets (64% vacancies), Nurses (58%), R&D managers (57%), Programmers/software developers (56%), and Financial/accounting technicians (54%)

  • 57% of graduates went to work in the region they studied in. 69% went to work in the region they were originally domiciled. Only 18.5% of graduates went to work somewhere they were not already connected to. In short, graduates are much less mobile than commonly assumed.

  • For those graduates not connected (not studied or lived in region) to the SW, Bristol is by far the most attractive city for early career opportunities

  • In 2014/15, the three Plymouth institutions (The University of Plymouth, MARJON and Plymouth College of Art) supplied two-thirds of graduates to the local labour market. 870 UK graduates from 2014/15 were known to be working in Plymouth six months after graduation. Plymouth University is also the largest supplier of graduates working in Cornwall, followed by Falmouth University. 980 UK graduates from 2014/15 were known to be working in Cornwall six months after graduation. 

  • There are four key ways that graduates found their jobs; employers websites, recruitment services, personal or family networks and by returning to a known employer

Charlie’s summary assured the audience that the graduate labour market is fundamentally sound and continuing a long-term trend for expansion.

However, skills shortages remain and will not ease in the short-term, meaning that recruitment difficulties will continue for the foreseeable future. One possible route for alleviating this skills shortage is to invest in the training and development of existing employees, but employers need to ensure it’s right training.

Of particular interest is that the transition to management appears to be an issue and many applicants are poorly prepared. This is a point that we hear spoken about often and indeed was something that Sharron Robbie chose to highlight too.

Finally, the importance of location and graduate mobility is probably overestimated. Graduates are not as mobile as we might believe, so, given the number of excellent Universities in the region, we should have a good shot at retaining some talented people.

After the break, we heard from three organisations making a difference regionally.

First up was Sharron Robbie who is the Managing Director of the Devon and Cornwall Training Provider Network. Sharon spoke of the importance of training as a tool for supporting talent retention, as you might expect, but there was also a strong focus on the importance of capable management and on understanding how to support, nurture and grow talent within the organisation. The key to this is ensuring that there is genuine employee engagement by employers. Training levels within Devon and Cornwall companies are still far too low and is surely a key reason why our productivity is that much lower than the national average.

Next up was Nicky Luke from Unlocking Potential in Cornwall, who delivered an excellent presentation outlining some the key lessons they have learnt over the years when it comes to successfully recruiting in a saturated jobs market, where skills are at a premium and with a business community dominated by small employers.

Nicky urged the audience to reflect on their business values, be more flexible with their requirements, to be inventive and to use video! To illustrate her point she showed a couple of great video clips, one highlighting how to ensure your brand stands out to prospective employees and the other to ensure that Cornwall stands out!

Finally, Julian Phillips from Midas Mi-Space, a key partner and sponsor of Building Plymouth, spoke about this ground-breaking project. Building Plymouth is an innovative private/ public sector Partnership – focused on construction and the built environment, which aims to reduce the skills gaps and skills shortages facing the local construction industry and to deliver the 10K projected new jobs in Plymouth.

This conference has helped to highlight some of the challenges we face in attracting and retaining talent to the region. However, we do have what it takes to overcome these challenges and to maximise the opportunities we have in some great sectors and companies right across this natural capital rich region.

DCBC shall continue to work with partners to explore opportunities for making a difference. If you want to find out more or be part of this activity, please get in touch @DCBC_voice #talentSW

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