It is no great revelation to hear that year on year herds of graduates flock to London, enticed by the bright lights, high starting salaries and general buzz of the capital city. But are graduates aware of opportunities that they leave behind? Whilst new research suggests that London’s gravitational pull is weaker for graduates who grew up hundreds of miles away from the capital, there is still a need to ensure that ‘local prospects’ are well-promoted and attractive to graduate job hunters across the country, especially for SMEs.  How can we dissipate the fastidious focus on London and encourage graduates to open their eyes to the range of opportunities arising on their doorstep?

A report by the RSA think-tank says graduates should be given advice on jobs and housing and should be matched with local employment opportunities. The research calls for more help for employers to pool resources so they can offer ‘golden handcuffs’ over a range of industries and sectors to those graduates who commit to working in an area for a set number of years.

I’m not sure ‘golden handcuffs’ is the answer, but there is something in all of this. What it comes down to really, is making the proposition of staying local more appealing and uncovering or creating, and publicising, the hidden opportunities available to graduates in their university localities.

One of our tried and tested methods of getting graduates on board locally is through offering undergraduates work experience and industrial placements. Discovery Graduates have worked with Samworth Brothers, a quality chilled foods group, for the past five years, recruiting a number of undergraduates for their industrial placement schemes. With many of these students returning after graduation into full time roles at the company, it seems this is a good place to start in terms of piquing graduate interest early on.


So, what can SME’s do to ensure graduates stick around after graduation celebrations?

  • Site visits – Even something as simple as allowing graduates to have a guided tour around your factory can have a great effect.  This not only gives graduates the chance to explore their potential future working environment, it also allows businesses to position themselves as a local recruiter of choice. Talk to the students about your business, explain what a typical day is like and what you specifically offer for graduates. It is never too early to get graduates to prick up their ears and start listening about your business.
  • Scholarships – Harper Adams University have strong links with a number of companies in the food industry including one of our clients, Anglo Beef Processors (ABP).  Enhancing university-to-business networks offers graduates visible routes into local businesses and gives them more staying power.
  • Get involved – there are schemes out there! Bringing together key players in the city including Sheffield City Council, Sheffield Hallam University, The University of Sheffield and the private sector, the collaborative initiative ‘RISE Sheffield’ puts graduates in touch with local SME’s looking for fresh talent. With consistent contact and support between these ‘key players’ and undergraduates throughout their studies, what better way to improve graduate stickability post-graduation.

Essentially, it all comes down to improving connections, contact and partnerships between local SMEs and universities and student groups. Retaining local talent needs to be approached as a collaborative project rather than an individual venture.

But let’s remember, there is more to life than work! After three years of being social butterflies, graduates are likely to want a vibrant social scene to accompany their work life. Visit our blog again soon for my next post which will explore my ideas around what businesses could do to ensure they are offering not just a great job, but an opportunity that is socially attractive too.