Why businesses need to be more mindful of the brain drain following outbreak

Businesses in Yorkshire will have to be even more mindful of a brain drain following the coronavirus outbreak as university students will have returned home, according to a graduate recruitment specialist.

Melanie Parker, founder of Graft, which is based in Leeds.

Melanie Parker, founder of Leeds-based Graft, believes that the virus could also have a knock-on effect in the future on international student numbers with many likely to be reluctant to travel far from home.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, she said: “A lot of international students are stuck in Yorkshire because they can’t go home. The borders have been shut.

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“A lot of students and graduates are currently sitting in halls really unsure. They can’t go home, they can’t spend time with their families, they’re self-isolating. That’s tough on them.

“I think there will be a massive dent in international applications to universities. This will have been such a scary time. What it might do is make people want to stay closer to home.

“Imagine being a student in Leeds currently and you’re from China, Brazil or India, when something like this happens and you can’t spend time with your family, that might have a significant effect. At times like this you want to be near your family.”

Ms Parker formerly worked at Leeds Beckett University as an employer engagement manager. She set up Graft in 2018.

According to the Institute of Student Employers (ISE), graduate jobs have reduced by 27 per cent as a result of the outbreak. However, Ms Parker believes that the figure is likely to be much higher.

Ms Parker, who is a passionate advocate of graduate talent, says students will have felt the brunt of the lockdown with many relying on part-time jobs in sectors such as hospitality to sustain them through university.

The recruitment specialist is urging businesses not to completely turn away from the graduate pipeline.

She said: “It takes a long time to get really significant graduate traction. A lot of companies spend a lot of money on careers fairs and doing everything they can with the universities.

“If we were to be honest, the graduate labour market is obviously significantly cheaper than some senior hires.

“I would advise them at all costs to try and not turn that pipeline off. They might put themselves back another year to 18 months and have to start that process again. If you shut it down completely it’s going to take a long time to get it back.”

Graft like many businesses has been affected “badly” by the coronavirus crisis with most of its clients battening down the hatches.

“Most of them have said it’s probably going to be about three months and then the tap will probably be turned on again,” Ms Parker said. “Unfortunately, recruitment as an industry has suffered horrendously.”

However, Ms Parker is spending the time speaking to and trying to help as many students as she can.

“You just try to offer help more than anything else,” she said. “What else is there to do?”

Ms Parker’s advice to graduates is to consider a career pivot. She said: “They might have to take a job which was not in their sights initially so that they’re working and they’ve got plenty of experience that they can point at during interviews.

“When employers ask about adaptability and resilience, they have some really good collateral that they can use.”

She also says jobseeking graduates will need to get creative with applications and research companies in a “really forensic way” and tailor their approach accordingly.

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Melanie Parker said: “Remote working is going to be bigger than it’s ever been. Everyone is jumping on Zoom, Microsoft Teams. That’s one of the benefits of keeping that graduate talent in your business. They’re well versed when it comes to being able to work remotely.”

Ms Parker added that she feels sorry for the class of 2020 as many of them are missing out on the final few months of face-to-face teaching and interactions with their peers.