Why is Oxfordshire losing so many educated and talented graduates every year?   

In my experience of recruiting in Oxfordshire over the past 8 years, the biggest thing that I feel we are missing is a wide choice of really good graduate programs, which is so upsetting considering Oxford is known across the world for its universities.

I know there have been lots of studies into why talent isn’t staying in Oxfordshire past education, and the trend seems to be very much around the cost of living, things like house prices, transport and even entertainment, but speaking purely from my own experiences the lack of really solid graduate programs is the single biggest reason.

As a business, we apply a head hunting approach to typically recruitment agency level vacancies and a large proportion is at graduate level, meaning we speak to hundreds of local graduates every single year. From these conversations the single biggest challenge fresh graduates have is that they aren’t sure the direction they wish to push their careers, but why is this a challenge?

Well, the market rightly dictates that normally once any person builds skills and experience within a given field their ‘market value’ within that field increases – EG: If I were to get a job in marketing tomorrow my ‘market value’ as a marketeer would be higher in 2 years, than that of tomorrow. For this very reason we are finding many candidates are becoming ‘Pidgeon holed’ in careers they don’t enjoy – the most common case is accountancy and I was almost guilty of this; Maths was my strongest subject throughout education so accountancy was the route I was pushed towards but most accountants will tell you maths is only a small part of accountancy. Especially as a chartered accountant, a massive part is relationship building, which is a complete oxymoron to the ‘typical accountant’ or certainly the cartoon stereotype, which my friend Nick Mason so brilliantly dramatizes. At this point it would be near impossible to change career and keep the ‘market value’ salary, which is consistent across most sectors and taking a pay cut, especially with the current rate of inflation is rarely possible.

Equally, I have been incredibly fortunate to work with some incredible and value driven businesses that provide such great places to work and all of which don’t want to see a robot at interview stage, they want to see the real candidate, which is really refreshing. Having said that, in 99.9% of cases all are looking for candidates who absolutely want to build a career in line with the role/traditional career path.

Whilst many appreciate the career path may change (and we’ve seen many candidates completely move after joining at graduate level) at interview stage what most employers are looking for is reassurance that the graduate is completely committed to building a long term career both with the business and indeed within the role type.

As a commercial business owner, I can completely empathise with businesses and indeed graduates, but I feel within our tiny recruitment business we have proven there definitely is a win/win – a truly rounded graduate program.

We did it first within our own business back in 2018 by hiring Shannon to prove the concept, and again in 2019 with Aoife, both of which have been promoted and we are agree it’s been a win/win for everybody involved. Since then we have been able to roll this out across a huge number of our clients, with amazing feedback.

What’s next? Well on Monday we welcome not 1 but 2 new additions to our graduate program and we are incredibly excited to support their growth and development over the coming months and years. Equally I know they are both incredibly excited to bring their education, enthusiasm and fresh eyes to make a real impact on our tiny recruitment business.

Want to know more about how it’s so easy to create a true win/win by offering a graduate program? Get in touch with me directly, I’d be delighted to share our experiences.