02 December 2013
Because they have little presence on campus and find it difficult to recruit graduates.
The majority of SMEs find it difficult to promote opportunities and fill vacancies, with 59 per cent saying graduate recruitment is a challenge, according to research by graduate jobs site targetjobs.co.uk.
Jeff Goodman, director of student services and employability at the University of Bristol, says the department has worked to reach out to SMEs:
“In recent years we’ve worked to develop a stronger relationship with local employers and SMEs, partly because we recognised because they are really big recruiters of graduates.”
As part of the programme the University of Bristol has started running training days to help local companies better understand the process.
Most universities offer free vacancy advertising service which SMEs can take advantage of and there are national vacancy lists such as Prospects, although these may charge.
In addition, SMEs can target university students through internships.
“We also have a subsidised internship scheme, so we will pay small companies interested in offering internships. We offer local companies matched funding, with some we offer full payment, for example if they are a start-up,” says Goodman.
Part of the issue identified by the research is that SMEs tend to have a limited presence on campus. A parallel survey undertaken by the National Union of Students found a third of undergraduates had heard ‘nothing’ about smaller employers and 68 per cent said that SMEs had a ‘limited’ or ‘very limited’ profile as potential recruiters.
“Students are always interested. It’s more that big companies are geared up to the business of grad recruitment. For small companies that are just dipping in every now and then they don’t know the set up, they probably don’t have a relationship with anyone at the institution,” says Goodman.
However, the on-campus visibility of SMEs has not affected university students’ willingness to work for smaller employers, with 87 per cent of undergraduates either ‘willing’ or ‘very willing’ to start their career with these businesses.
Goodman advised SMEs to contact university career services before they have a hiring requirement:
“I know this is a lot of ask of small companies, but it means they can get the vacancy appropriately worded, understand the system and we can give advice on good times of year to recruit. Obviously an internship is one way of doing that. It can be very inexpensive or free for the company and brilliant experience for the graduate.”
Chris Philips, UK Information and Research Director at GTI Media, which operates targetjobs.co.uk, added: “This is a serious national issue. There is little growth in vacancies from the big brands of graduate recruitment, but it’s far more difficult for students to access opportunities with small businesses and far more difficult for smaller businesses to recruit from universities. We need to take action now to bring willing students and willing employers together.”