Hunt for business talent must start at school

THE battle to attract the top business talent must begin in the classroom, according to a leading professional services firm.

Alistair Denton, a partner at EY

EY believes Yorkshire companies should educate soon-to-be school leavers about their career options, at a time when high tuition fees are encouraging many young people to look for options other than university.

The professional services firm – which recruited 70 school leavers nationally in 2013 – has seen a 29 per cent increase in applications for its 2014 UK school leaver programme compared with last year.

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Alistair Denton, a partner at EY, said this illustrates the “shift in mind-set” among many students.

He said: “Students are more carefully considering their next move after A-Levels. Our application figures show that university is no longer the default, which presents an opportunity for corporates in Yorkshire and right across the country.

“Our school leaver scheme isn’t right for everyone and graduates still make up the vast majority of our intake. However, for those who are less interested in university but focused on a career in professional services, it provides hands-on experience, industry-leading training and a full salary, which is a pretty compelling offer. We hope to recruit six school leavers in Yorkshire this year.”

EY believe that recruiting talented school leavers alongside graduates ensures that companies can attract a cross-section of talent.

Mr Denton added: “For many corporates, offering school leavers a career entry point will enable them to secure the best breadth of talent and help to retain that talent in the region.

“However, the Yorkshire business community must better educate young people – as well as their schools and parents – on the options available.

“But handing over a brochure isn’t enough; it’s important that young people are able to experience professions and gain valuable workplace skills that will stand them in good stead in the jobs market in the future.

“Education needs to come in the form of community engagement and workshops, work experience programmes, mentoring and internships for school students. They need to know what opportunities there are and which ones are open to them,” he added.

Twelve year 12 students from Yorkshire are now into their third week of paid work experience at EY’s Leeds and Hull offices, as part of The EY Foundation’s Smart Futures programme.

The scheme, which includes three weeks’ work experience and mentoring for the students throughout year 13, is designed to help them get ahead in work and enhance their employment prospects.

While this is the first time the programme has come to the firm’s Leeds and Hull offices – having been launched in London in 2012 – 20 per cent of UK Smart Futures alumni have gone on to employment through EY’s school leaver programme and the firm is targeting a similar figure for the 2014 intake, which is over 100 students UK-wide.

The Yorkshire students are learning about how professional services works, meeting entrepreneurs, and working with senior people from EY and other industries.

The students are also receiving valuable advice on CV writing and interview techniques.