From education to employment

Successful Employer Engagement

I am often struck by this paradox. Colleges that do not have a CRM system often yearn after one as if it will solve all their problems; and Colleges that do have a CRM system often grumble that it isn’t being used. Neither of these positions are absolutely true, I know, but nevertheless I’m sure many of you can identify with the sentiment.

The fact is that for most Colleges employer engagement is a tough gig. Yes, of course you know your existing employer relationships and you try hard to manage them well. And, yes, when employers phone in with enquiries (as they do) either about apprenticeships or training provision you try to be as responsive as you can. But regularly securing new business with ‘new’ employers doesn’t happen as often as you would like. And that’s a problem in a world where apprenticeships and training delivery is one of the few ways left for Colleges to grow their income and even more so once the levy arrives and employers can call the shots more than ever.

So what’s the answer? Well, I am not going to pretend to know the answer but perhaps the following seven observations may be helpful.

  1. Don’t get hung up on CRM systems. It really isn’t the place to begin. Accept whatever you have as your starting point (good or bad) and concentrate your time and effort on outward-facing employer activities rather than on internal systems development.
  1. Stop assuming that the customer always knows best. I know that sounds like customer service heresy but just because an employer says they’d like to see five CVs shouldn’t stop you from sending the only one good CV that you have. Or just because the employer says they’ll get back to you with an interview date shouldn’t stop you pestering them for a definite commitment. And start saying No to some of those phoned-in opportunities that you know you are most unlikely ever to fill.
  1. Pick up the phone and have something interesting to talk about. Except perhaps with some larger employers, the apprenticeships system is not usually an easy topic to broach on an initial sales call. Far better, in my opinion, to open with a student looking for work experience in their business or with an apprenticeship learner who especially wants to work for them. Make the call about why that particular individual wants to work there and how they may add value to their business.
  1. Get out of the office. By going on visits to employers you will find out things about their business that you never imagined and you’ll be able to spot opportunities for the College that you would never identify over the phone.
  1. Change your mindset to always think of employer engagement in terms of what’s in for them. Hence why you’ll find far more apprenticeship opportunities if at the same time you talk to the same employer about work experience placements or part-time jobs for students whilst at College or full-time jobs for students when they finish.
  1. Make it fun. Everyone knows that people buy from people, so make use of your personality. Fair enough not everyone will click with your particular sense of humour etc., but some will.
  1. And finally, make it fast. Time is money and employers generally want to work with someone who follows through on their promises quickly. Private training providers know this and Colleges need to start beating them at their own game


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