The UK has a long-standing reputation of being home to some of the world’s most prestigious universities. We have three universities in the global top 10 – no mean feat – and offer young people a huge array of academic choice, with fantastic teaching and facilities, at institutions across the country. This produces hundreds of thousands of bright young grads every year, eager and willing to put their new skills and education to good use.
But we increasingly risk losing our best and brightest graduates. Upon leaving university, our young people face massive student debts, a competitive jobs market, extortionate rents, and depressed wage growth. Throw the uncertainty created by Brexit into the mix and it’s no surprise that many of our hottest prospects are eyeing up the alternatives.
The thriving tech scenes in Berlin and Paris (capitals which also offer cheaper rents) are proving a compelling draw to UK graduates. And many are upping sticks for Canada, attracted by the outdoorsy lifestyle and career prospects. Scores set their sights on Australia, others take a punt on South America. In short, despite attracting some of the brightest minds when it comes to higher education, Britain is falling behind when it comes to fulfilling the ambitions and aspirations of recent graduates.
Whilst a range of economic and political factors have a role to play in this brain-drain, employers and businesses must do more to keep our brightest minds on home turf. University students are bright, savvy and skilled. But employers often see them as clueless, inexperienced and fit for only the most mundane of tasks. These attitudes overlook the immense value young people can bring to businesses. They are the consumers, doers and thinkers of tomorrow, meaning they have masses of insight that could help business make themselves fit for future audiences. They are also the generation to whom touch screens and digital interfaces are the norm. Students and graduates have the technical skills many companies are paying thousands to outsourced companies for – they are a massive untapped resource for the economy.
British businesses should therefore be investing more in engaging with university students and recent graduates. Whether it’s through career fairs, offering summer internships, or sourcing your temps or part-time staff from local universities instead of agencies, there’s a huge amount to be gained from upping your interaction with the workforce of tomorrow.
And if employers don’t start coming to young people, instead of waiting for them to knock on their door, they could soon find there isn’t enough talent to go around.
Gregory Newman is the managing director and founder of S2DNT, an app which connects a community of bright, skilled university students with businesses and employers looking for help with tasks.