John Wilford, Managing Director, Rave Communications

So many colleges simply don't comprehend the discipline needed to sell to employers.

Now, more than ever, there is an imperative for colleges to forge wider and deeper relationships with employers. Each college needs to ensure that its provision accurately matches the skills required by employers to improve the employability of students, and also to promote and sell full cost recovery courses. With outcomes (employability) becoming increasingly linked to funding, colleges must start to think like commercial businesses.

Many FE colleges try to be all things to all people.

Too often colleges have a proposition to employers that is nebulous. Often they will say "we can do anything you want", which may be true but it is quite difficult for an employer to buy something so intangible. Staff training is normally required to fill a particular skills gap and specific courses will be required to fill this need. Give employers a "yes" or "no" decision, don't try to sell something unspecific and undefined.

Many colleges also do not understand market segmentation. Market segmentation is the process of breaking the market down into smaller chunks that share a similar profile i.e. industry sector, behaviour, geography. The best strategy is to divide and conquer markets; develop a proposition for a specific sector or need, and then promote it hard using advertising, direct mail, PR and digital marketing. Having a strong market share reduces the perceived risk of buying from you.

The single biggest challenge is to become more sales focused; this means a strategy to build a list of prospects, to maintain a structured database and to communicate to these targets in a planned manner. Customer relationship management (CRM) is not simply a piece of software, it is way of behaving. CRM is about rigorously collecting data, ensuring this data is kept up to date and using the data to promote courses. Of course having some a good software system is important, but the discipline of maintaining and using the data is paramount. Often the CRM application can help drive the procedures. My agency, Rave, recommends using SugarCRM as a platform for engaging with employers. SugarCRM is a web based solution meaning your employer engagement team can use the system from anywhere; office, home, iPhone, Blackberry and iPad. The system has great reporting tools for monitoring the sales pipeline and an integrated email broadcast application.

You also have to think clearly about your brand. Many colleges seem almost embarrassed about being a college when they sell to employers. They give their employer engagement team some bland business-to-business brand in order to hide the fact that the communication is a coming from a college. Prospects are not idiots, they will eventually find out you are a college. So be proud. You have great facilities and great teaching staff, so leverage these strengths. Of course, you need to change your tone of voice, imagery and the look and feel of your communications for a business market.

This embarrassment about being a college even manifests itself with colleges having a totally separate business engagement division, with a separate management structure and even located off-campus. Business engagement has to be integral to college strategy, not an add-on. Creating and nurturing business relationships should be a standing item on the agenda of every governors, SLT, management and divisional meeting.

A great excuse to start a dialogue with an employer is apprenticeships. Apprenticeships are probably the only area where the government is increasing education funding, although there seems to have been a small fortune spent on creating brand guidelines and little spent on promoting apprenticeships to young people and employers. Apprenticeships are the natural interface between work and learning, yet there is still widespread ignorance about the scheme among employers. In employer research conducted by Rave, it is apparent that deep-seated prejudices exist. Many employers, especially small business which make up the bulk of the economy, still think that apprenticeships are only available in construction and hairdressing.

Apprenticeships have a compelling selling point that most employers are unaware. Cheap labour. I can almost feel your horror after reading those two words. But businesses are economic entities whose purpose, on the whole, is to make a profit. 97% of employers surveyed by Rave were unaware that there is a different (and lower) minimum wage for apprentices. We shouldn't be embarrassed by this, because apprenticeships give young people a fantastic start in life and deliver real business benefits to the employer. Don't rush to you marketing department and tell them to put a starburst on your ads saying "staff only £2.50 per hour". This message needs crafting sensitively by a gifted copywriter.

John Wilford is founder and managing director of Rave, a specialist marketing agency providing strategic advice, creativity, media planning and campaign execution to many FE colleges and sixth form colleges.

John penned this article for FE News back in 2011! How much has changed since then, just the minimum wage for apprentices, or have colleges become more sophisticated in their employer engagement?

You may also be interested in these articles:

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Advertisers

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Video Advert

Newsroom Activity

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel had a status update on Twitter 22 hours 23 minutes ago

RT @FENews: Connected Classroom and 1:1 Learning for Harrogate Grammar School: Based in North Yorkshire, Harrogate Grammar School (@Harroga…
View Original Tweet

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.

Podcasts

We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.

Events

FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page