Undergraduate students are, in many ways, the future of most businesses. The young people studying now will be the people employed in entry-level positions in a few years, while probably also being the people moving up the corporate ladder after that. As such, it is important for companies not to disregard this important demographic.
Students are almost a commodity at the moment. When people graduate each summer, companies will end up competing for the best and brightest who will add significant value to a business. If you have not made any effort to court these potential employees, they will go to your competitors instead.
Companies are ranked by several organisations based on how good an employer they are to students. The most recent of these - from RateMyPlacement - has just come out, revealing Barclays to be the number one undergraduate employer for 2014, ensuring it will be able to pick from the cream of the crop when it comes to employing graduates.
"We are thrilled that the investment we have made in our programmes has once again been recognised within the industry as one of the best," Barclays' head of campus recruiting in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Jane Clark, told HR Magazine. "Being rated top by the students themselves is also a great honour."
So what exactly has Barclays done to secure the approval of all the students voting on RateMyPlacement? Ms Clark mentioned "rewarding work experiences", but what counts as rewarding? How can you replicate Barclays' success and ensure the next lot of graduates see you as a good employer?
Think about what students will be hoping to gain from their placement with your company. 'Work experience' is often talked about, but this should involve more than literally just experiencing what the day-to-day job is like. Really, what students are looking for is development and the opportunity to learn.
You should make sure any undergraduates you take on through placements are trained up on a regular basis in anything you can think of. This can be as simple as teaching them the basics of the job, but in a formal environment. Out-of-office training is a great way to make them feel appreciated, so you could think about starting their placement with an induction day of some kind.
Taking them to a conference venue for a chance to learn the ropes is a great way to endear students to your business from day one, however you should make sure to keep their training going throughout their time with you. If you develop them loads in the first week then just leave them to do the job, they will start feeling unfulfilled.
Instead, you should gradually increase their responsibilities during their time with you. Every week or so, you can let them take on another duty and train them in it. As their responsibility increases, they will begin to feel like this is a career they will very much enjoy.
Getting this right is key to securing the best available employees in the future. Undergraduate training may seem a bit pointless at the time, but it is a solid investment in the future of your company that is well worth making.