SMEs: Why recruit a graduate?

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As a growing SME, finding the right talent to expand your team can be one of the most challenging and time-consuming tasks you face. In this blog piece, Jo Howell, Head of Careers and Employability at Birmingham City University draws light on the fact that alongside the skills and qualifications required for the role, there are a whole host of other attributes you might be looking for in a new employee.

You may be considering graduate recruitment as one of the options available to you, but current perceptions can be off-putting. Perhaps you’ve been led to believe graduates aren’t work-ready, are a costly investment, or require more support than your small business can provide?

The reality is quite different and in this blog we outline several of the challenges faced by SMEs looking to recruit and aim to show you exactly what a high calibre university leaver could do for your business.

1. Identifying 'work-ready' candidates

Whatever level or position you're recruiting for, chances are you'd ideally like candidates to already possess a good understanding of the workplace environment. A common misconception of graduates is that they lack practical experience to complement their academic knowledge. However, most universities now have work-integrated learning at their core and encourage students to undergo work placements in their chosen field alongside their studies. Throughout the past three years Birmingham City University (BCU) has been reviewing and validating courses under its ‘transforming the curriculum’ initiative. Course content has been designed around industry standards and tailored by SMEs to ensure students graduate with the necessary skills for their career. 

2. Finding flexible and adaptable employees

You need highly-skilled and flexible employees who can adapt to various roles and responsibilities. Whilst graduates have some experience of the workplace, they are not filled with preconceived ideas about ‘how to work’, so their creative and analytical thinking is often less stifled. As a busy SME it’s easy to let innovation take a backseat, but graduates can be a great source of new ideas and insight to help drive your business growth. 

3. The time and costs involved in training a new employee

New employees undoubtedly require time and financial investment in the form of training, equipment and resources, but not to an off-putting extent! Growing your team is an exciting prospect and an important step for your business, so it's important to choose the right candidate. Not only do graduates leave university with a degree and work experience under their belt, but many courses now incorporate professional competencies. 

4. Recruiting loyal employees who will be invested in your business

You've invested a lot in your business, so it's important as you grow your team to find employees that will be as enthusiastic and invested in it as you are.

It's commonly perceived that graduates move from one role to another very quickly, but this is simply not the case. Graduates have committed heavily to their education, with tuition fees and three and four year courses demonstrating great staying power. Many then look for stable employment in a company that will help them develop and progress through their career. In fact, a recent survey found 63% of students and graduates favour SMEs for employment, associating them with flexible working and a friendlier company culture.

Experience also shows that graduates invest in their local region and economy, with a growing number of students choosing to study at a university local to home and find employment there.

5. Putting the right support in place

As a time-poor SME, you might have concerns that you don't have the appropriate infrastructure in place in your business to find and nurture the right candidate. It's easy to keep putting off a recruitment, but as business demands increase, the need for another pair of hands will only get more urgent! 

Universities are well-established and have a vested interest in developing relationships with local SMEs. By working closely with both graduates and SMEs, they possess a good understanding of what businesses look for in a new recruit, and vice versa. As a result, they can advise on vacancies and job specifications to help attract good quality applications to reduce the often-tedious sorting process.

Next steps? 

So if you’ve not yet considered a graduate as your next recruit, think again. There are so many benefits to be realised, from introducing fresh insight to gaining a dedicated and loyal new member of the team. BCU’s employability services are friendly, approachable and free.

To discover how a newly qualified graduate can benefit your business and to gain help finding your next recruit contact the Careers+ team at Birmingham City University.

Discover how we can help you drive business growth.