I recently attended the AAGE Grad Panel up in Brisbane. This was the second AAGE Grad Panel that I've been to, the last being in 2009 in Sydney. If you haven't been to a Grad Panel, the basic concept is that 4 5 different employers bring along one of their recently hired graduates and the mix of recruiters in the audience are able to ask them questions about a variety of subjects
The last Grad Panel I attended in Sydney had a mix of graduates from different backgrounds such as marketing, Information Technology, engineering and human resources. In Brisbane however, three out of the four graduates on the panel were engineers. So our panel consisted of:
- Reannan from Aecom Civil Engineering
- Tegan from the Brisbane City Council Town Planning
- Chris from the Department of Transport and Main Roads Civil Engineering
- Rubi from GHD Mechanical Engineering
So we can see, engineering, infrastructure and construction are a definite focus for graduate employers in Queensland.
All of the graduates on the panel had managed to secure some form of cadetship, scholarship or vacation work program while they were studying. The 3 grads on the scholarship and vacation programs were not bonded by their employers to become fulltime employees after their programs were over. The grad on the cadetship program however was bonded for a set time period to take a full time position with the organisation. Even with no lock in period, 2 of the 3 scholarship and vacation students took full time employment with their respective companies after their under grad programs had finished. The main reason they stayed on at these employers was that the areas they wanted to continue working on were available to them as a full time employee. The grad that changed from their vacation employer to a different full time employer stated that the work available to them at their vacation employer was not what they really wanted to do long term which motivated them to move on. So it seems that these under graduate programs are working really well in the engineering sector and it does help that these vacation programs do make up part of the curriculum in many engineering degrees. These initiatives do have potential to be more widespread in other areas with skills shortages such as Information Technology specifically.
The number of applications seems to vary wildly. One grad applied for a single position and nailed it while the other grads on the panel applied for anywhere between 8 15 positions. The grads who were at universities that included practical work experience as part of their degree were prompted to apply due to notifications from many of their lecturers.
What attracted them?
There were a range of employer attributes that the graduates placed value in. The major recurring theme was Company Reputation which was defined as how the organisation was perceived publicly as well as the experiences that their friends may have had on previous vacation programs. Other key factors that they were attracted to were things like work life balance, specifically where there were planned social events and social groups that they were made aware of. The prospect of having access to training programs as well as other learning and development programs were attractive however the exact specifics. Another major plus point was the future opportunities aligning to their specific interests and career goals.
Their expectations versus reality
Always a dangerous question to ask some new employees with their grad managers in the room listening. The common trends in this space were the massive differences between university life and the professional work place. Vacation work and scholarship programs did help to bridge the gap in this area though with a more gradual transition between uni and full time work meaning they knew what they were in for when they started full time. Starting at the same time as other grads did really help as well as they had an instant network.
Structured Grad Alumni Programs
This was a question from the floor around whether they thought that running a structured alumni program for the graduates would be a good initiative. All of the grads unanimously thought that this would be a bit cumbersome to manage and would not really work out in reality. The grads had already built informal alumni programs per se by inviting previous years graduates to their social events which seemed to be working well already. Hopefully this post will help all of the recruiters out there currently working on Vacation and Internship recruitment hang in there as this does seem to be a very effective way of hiring new talent into organisations. Also a big thanks goes out to Jane at Main Roads who organised and hosted the session for inviting me along!