Monday 25 April 2016

Great Nottingham Debate 2016: Attracting and retaining young talent in Nottingham


Great debate panel members
Sir John Peace and the Great Nottingham Debate panel members. Pic by Nottingham Post.

Too many students who already live here just can't imagine it as a city where they could start careers as young professionals.
Mike Sassi, editor of the Nottingham Post
We recruit students from all over the world and it is vital that we retain as much of this talent as possible for the benefit of the city’s economy.
Nottingham Trent University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Edward Peck

More than 100 business leaders and city representatives recently joined Nottingham Business School and the Nottingham Post to debate how to retain Nottingham's young talent at the Great Nottingham Debate 2016.

The event focused on the outcomes of a Nottingham Post-commissioned study by Nottingham Business School senior research fellow, Chris Lawton, into the issues surrounding Nottingham's low graduate retention rates compared to other UK cities.

The research revealed that it is the perception of Nottingham as a place for young professionals to live and work, rather than the actual offering and demand for highly skilled workers, which presents a challenge.

Data presented in the report suggested that students already from the local area will remain after graduation, but many others – particularly those from London and the South East, of whom both universities recruit a high number – return to their home area after graduation.

Feedback from student focus groups showed that those who undertook work placements and became involved in civic life were more likely to speak positively of Nottingham's wider offering - such as good transport links, nightlife, retail and sport - than students who lived in a "student bubble" and witnessed little or no evidence of a "young professional" community or lifestyle in Nottingham.

The research also found that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) struggled to compete with large organisations when recruiting graduates, suggesting that more could be done to market the benefits of joining an SME to students.

An additional issue was that of housing, with a perceived surplus of student accommodation but limited affordable housing for young professionals.

Report author Chris Lawton said: "The main challenge for retention is one of perception rather than any particular weakness in Nottingham's offer. The city has a diverse range of sectors and businesses of all sizes which are looking for skilled young people and graduates, but the information does not seem to be reaching a large proportion of students."

Nottingham Post editor Mike Sassi, who hosted the event, added: "There's a clear message that in the long term we need to raise the aspirations of local youngsters. Students at other universities are many times more likely to make their university city their home than here. Too many students who already live here just can't imagine it as a city where they could start careers as young professionals. They don't know about the opportunities that exist on their doorstep."

Nottingham Trent University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Edward Peck, said: "We recruit students from all over the world and it is vital that we retain as much of this talent as possible for the benefit of the city's economy. In conjunction with other agencies we are already working to improve rates through schemes such as Grads4Nottingham. This research and the ideas generated at the event have enhanced the agenda for both universities and our civic and business partners.

"An important part of our strategy is focused on work placements which are identified in the research as a successful way to engage students in the life of the city outside of university. By 2018 every one of our students will undertake an assessed placement as part of their course, giving them more opportunities to experience life as a young professional Nottingham."

Many at the Great Nottingham Debate agreed that city stakeholders must join together to market a coherent message to young people and graduates about what the city offers. Opportunities to better use alumni as ambassadors and target graduates who may wish to relocate from London back to Nottingham later in their career were also discussed.

Professor Baback Yazdani, Dean of Nottingham Business School, added: "We want our graduates to aim high and join organisations locally, nationally and internationally. Hence public and private enterprises in the city work together with the universities to create high-quality jobs that graduates are naturally attracted to. We also need to collaboratively market the great many graduate opportunities that already exist in Nottingham to our graduates."

Speakers and panel members at the event also included Sir John Peace, Lord Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire, chairman of Standard Chartered Bank and chairman of Burberry Group; Sir David Greenaway, University of Nottingham Vice-Chancellor; Sarah Walker-Smith, chief operating officer, Browne Jacobson LLP; Neil Armstrong, Talent Manager - Early Careers at Boots; and Paul Southby, chairman of Marketing Nottingham and Nottinghamshire.

Notes to editors:

Press enquiries please contact Helen Breese, Senior Press Officer, on telephone +44 (0)115 848 8751, or via email.

The event was the second installment of the Great Nottingham Debate

Nottingham Trent University
Nottingham Trent University’s five-year strategic plan Creating the University of the Future has five main ambitions: Creating Opportunity, Valuing Ideas, Enriching Society, Connecting Globally, and Empowering People.

The Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education was awarded to Nottingham Trent University in November 2015.  It is the highest national honour for a UK university and recognises the institution’s world-class research. Pioneering projects to improve weapons and explosives detection in luggage, enable safer production of powdered infant formula, and combat food fraud, led to the prestigious award.