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Creating quality graduate jobs for those from under-represented backgrounds

Fantastic talent flows out of Derby University every year, going straight into graduate jobs. But at the same time, there are huge numbers of bright students, often from underrepresented and under-privileged backgrounds, who don’t have the confidence to apply to the high-flying corporate graduate schemes in the market.

For them to keep hold of their brightest and best, and to offer them equally high calibre graduate employment opportunities, the University launched its first Future Talent ‘fast track’ graduate scheme in 2023.

The challenge

The University of Derby wanted to launch a new graduate programme, across their corporate functions, with up to 12 places aimed specifically at their own students. Inclusivity and reaching out to students from diverse backgrounds was important, as they felt there was a lot of under-representation among University employees. 

They had plenty of communications channels to use to promote the schemes, and also internal support and resources to do this.

But the main challenge was in establishing a clear and compelling proposition for the schemes. And continued working at the University, instead of applying to external graduate recruitment schemes. And then articulating this creatively in a way that would stand out in a very crowded market.

We needed to add value creatively, and ensure the campaign worked in the first year it was launched!

Our approach

We conducted a lot of research to understand what the proposition should be for the campaign. What was it about what Derby was offering that would appeal most to these talented and ambitious students?

We started by sending out a short survey to the student council, to understand the needs, motivations and behaviours of our target audience when it comes to their future careers. We also interviewed all of the senior stakeholders (Heads of Functions) of all the schemes to get under the skin of what the University was offering.

This allowed us to develop a series of creative concepts, which we tested in a student focus group to gain valuable feedback and insights.

We landed on a creative concept called ‘the best of both worlds’:

On the one hand you have…

– The opportunity to realise your leadership potential in a top-notch graduate scheme, making a real difference within an ambitious institution.

– A challenging placement, with the opportunity to test and stretch yourself (certainly not ‘the cushy option’) – and gain professional qualifications

A salary that’s been benchmarked with equivalent schemes elsewhere

– Masses of variety and hands-on involvement in exciting projects across the campus and beyond

And on the other, you have..

– Work in a familiar institution you already know and love

– A place of work that’s right on your doorstep, keeping you close to the stuff that’s most important

– An employer who will see you for who you are and nurture you towards fulfilling your true potential.

– Loads of mentoring – more than in a commercial job. Derby has invested a lot in making sure you’ll be supported every step of the way.

We then set off creating an extensive suite of creative assets, digital and physical, so the University could promote through a huge variety of internal channels:

  • HTML email for students and alumni
  • Mini-brochure, given to lecturers to hand out to students
  • Animated tiles and banners for their intranet, website and digital screens across the campus
  • A3 posters
  • Business cards with a QR code leading to the online application

The result

The campaign launched in January 2023 and ran for 6 weeks. It was deemed a huge success, with great feedback from academics and students alike. The results speak for themselves:

– 163 completed, high quality applications (158 of these passed the first round of screening)

– 10 offers, 50% of whom are from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds

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We’d love to hear more about where your organisation is heading, and chat about how we can bring your culture to life to drive attraction, engagement and inclusion.