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Viewpoint: Keep your graduate trainees keen

18 May 2016

Why invest in trainees only to see them disappear off to pastures new when training is over? An ongoing programme with career progression is the key, says Graham Eveleigh, head of skills and training, WSH

The benefits of offering graduate programmes have long been debated and new research has set tongues wagging again. A survey by the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) has shown that graduate trainees only stay with their employer on average for 2.5 years after their training, which is a short length of time given the investment made by businesses.

One of the most common reasons for leaving cited by respondents was that their expectations for career progression were not being met. Career progression is crucial to this generation and should not be overlooked when it comes to encouraging and retaining young talent.

For a graduate programme to be worth its salt, expectations must be managed and career progression opportunities made clear from the start. I believe the future success of a business is highly dependent on the development of talent and its retention. As business leaders, we need to champion our people through innovative and tailormade training and development. A graduate programme should act as a stepping stone along the career path.

The AGR research also cited providing opportunities within the wider business as being crucial. I completely agree. Trainees should be given the chance to develop a wide range of skills that can be applied to all manner of situations and should not be pigeonholed into the first role they come into. Instead, they should be given the opportunity to understand how the business works and how all the roles support each other. Our Graduate Momentum programme does just this. It enables graduates to transition from study to the workplace and equip them with managerial and leadership skills. It also presents an ideal opportunity for us to select, train and reward our future leaders.

When it comes to the benefits for businesses, not only are graduate programmes helping to create future leaders, but they are cost effective, too. Recruitment costs can potentially be up to £5,000 per person, but by offering a graduate programme, the recruits are already being put through an internal assessment, negating the need for external recruiters. On completion, many trainees go on to be offered a permanent position and, if well supported, they will remain in the business long-term, avoiding high staff turnover and the associated costs.

Word of mouth can play a pivotal role in the success of a business' graduate programme. Graduates often maintain contact with their colleges and universities, creating the perfect opportunity for businesses to plant the seeds early on among current students. Taking a success story to these establishments is a great way of ensuring a consistent stream of talent. After all, a good recommendation can be infectious.

With 100% of graduates from the first year of our Graduate Momentum programme still working for us five years on, we've shown that continued investment is key. In fact, we are bucking the trend of the 2.5-year average, with between 75% and 100% of our graduate trainees from each year still employed at BaxterStorey.

Our industry's future truly relies on businesses like us championing young talent and developing the next generation of managers. We ask our people to be the best and they can only achieve this with our ongoing support.

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Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

The highest official awards for UK businesses since being established by royal warrant in 1965. Read more.

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