The University Challenge

Amanda MenahemInvestigating the gap between graduate education and the needs of the employer. Often we find that the university curriculum does not line up with what the employers are looking for and this is a gap that ABM would like to help address.

The most important thing in maintaining the motivation of the graduate is to ensure there are jobs available to them upon completion of their course. We hear media stories of five unskilled positions being offered by
an employer that receives 500 applications, with many of them from university graduates. One presumes this means that they are unable to find a job commensurate with their degree yet there are jobs available that would benefit from their skills. Why the mis-match?

We spoke to Amanda Menahem, the HR Director of the largest employer in Sussex, Hastings Direct Insurance, in an attempt to understand the problem.

We are constantly recruiting; growing by circa 200 jobs every year and l currently have over 300 positions available but must admit that we do have trouble filling some of these roles with the right people. Many of them are specialist professional roles in finance, IT, marketing and commercial. We also seek analytical and data skills such as maths, statistics and engineering because these disciplines are great for roles in our pricing, underwriting and actuarial functions.

These disciplines and skills are hard to find in Sussex and while we often seek those with experience, we need to start working with ‘raw material’ by working with the students and graduates early on that have the potential to take on these roles. I fully understand that our region loses many of its most talented graduates to London, with the thought that they will secure the highest salary, however, this is not true. Many of the roles available with Hastings Direct are at a package level on a par with London without the hassle and high cost of having to travel there every day.

Of course, as a business that’s big enough to command attention but still small enough to make a difference, you can really stand out and forge a career in a way that’s more difficult in some of the big London firms.
As for our ‘bulk’ recruitment – the majority of our customer facing roles are actually highly skilled; requiring the ability to become insurance ‘experts’, with some IT and technical skills and, of course, great customer service skills. Not only this, but to progress – which is something we want and need as a business to fill future pipeline roles, employees need to demonstrate a number of qualities. For example, the drive to continuously learn and adapt, to improve what we do, to make things happen, be accountable and drive their own destiny rather than waiting for opportunities to land in their laps.

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