Solving the skills shortage in the West Midlands

Solving the skills shortage in the West Midlands

Posted on: 30 October 2013

Graduates in the West Midlands throw their hats in the air

It was all about the glitz and the glamour. Ember Television was privileged to produce the films that were played throughout the Birmingham Post Business Awards, one of the key dates in the Birmingham business calendar.  As part of the production, I got to interview all the businesses that were nominated. As well as hearing about the achievements from across sectors thriving in the West Midlands, I also heard about the challenges that businesses are facing.

A recurring problem was the skills shortage and attracting graduate talent to the region.  Coverage usually focuses on the issue in manufacturing, but it's just as relevant to other sectors such as the professional and creative.  In construction, one home developer discussed the ageing work force.  "If we're not training people for the future," he pointed out, "we're just storing up a problem for days to come".

Recent research confirms these challenges.  A study by Santander UK showed that out of all the regions, the West Midlands had the lowest number of graduate SME employees (18%).

I believe employers across all sectors can also play a role in communicating the benefits of learning these skills while attracting the right talent into their business.  Elsewhere, research revealed that 87% of graduates would be "willing" or "very willing" to start their career with a smaller business. Compare this to the findings in the Santander UK report, where 23% of graduates were unaware of the opportunities that SMEs offered, and a communications deficit becomes part of the skills problem.

Whether it's young people or graduates, the principle of communicating the benefits of working for your company is the same. Here are five reasons why SMEs should target graduates through content marketing.

1. Engaging Your Target Audience

It's no surprise that the largest proportion of internet users are in the 16 to 24 age group, with 99% falling into this age group.  Not only this, but YouTube now reaches more adults aged 24 to 35 than any TV network.  Providing quality content can be one way of engaging with the graduate job market.

2. Rich Content

As demonstrated by the top graduate employers, there is plenty to talk about when it comes to careers.  Most organisations in Birmingham and the Midlands are no different.  Here are a couple of examples of what companies are doing:


The Pricewaterhousecoopers careers YouTube channel houses a range of video content.  One example is a series of short videos following different graduates through a working day.  The films provide an insight into the projects they are working on.  It also promotes other aspects of the company such as the PwC environmental policy, the office facilities and the workplace culture.

Obviously not all businesses can promote these elements, but it can increase a potential graduate's understanding of your business and give them ideas of how they could apply their skills to help achieve the company vision.

Graduate Experience

This is a series of case studies following graduates that have worked for Mitchells and Butlers, the managed pub and restaurant company.  The responsibility, the variety of experience and the promotion opportunities are all highlighted, which are aspects that graduates look for in jobs.

There are plenty more ideas.  For instance, the Director of an events management firm was telling me that their biggest recruitment problem is getting potential staff to consider moving to the Midlands.  Video content profiling the area that the business is based in could persuade potential employees that would not otherwise consider moving to an area for the job.

3. A Cost-Effective Approach

Over half of the graduates in the GTI Media/STEP questionnaire said that SMEs had a "limited" or "very limited" profile as potential recruiters.  Whereas larger corporations can afford to tour campuses and career fairs all over the country, content strategies that are well planned and carefully integrated can boost a company profile just as effectively and over a longer period of time.

4. A Broader Marketing Tool

Creating video content to attract talent has the added benefit of indirect marketing for your organisation.  The PwC example illustrates how other messages can be combined with the content so that not only are the messages engaging with the target audience, but it also broadly positions the business as industry leaders with a slick professional operation.

5. Return on Investment

The holy grail of video marketing.  Devising a video strategy aimed at recruiting local talent has a clear set of goals. Once those coveted positions in your business are filled and the latest recruits start performing, there are demonstrable results from your investment in the strategy.

These solutions are not limited to graduates; they could be used to reach the large numbers of youth unemployed in the Midlands as well.  It should also be noted that this is not a one-size-fits-all strategy for solving the problem of attracting and retaining graduate talent to the area. It should only be applied where appropriate. That said, if employers want to engage with potential employees, they need to communicate how they can develop skills through the business, as well as why it is worth working for them.

As the debate around how effectively education prepares young people for the working world rages on, employers also need to be proactive in what they can offer graduates. This may mean reassessing parts of the company marketing strategy to include material targeted at future professionals.


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Solving the skills shortage in the West Midlands



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