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Hull students help manufacturers devise a blueprint for attracting Generation Z

Students from the University of Hull have been helping some of the country’s leading manufacturers develop a blueprint for attracting the next generation of talent.

Computer Science student Olivia Moore, Chemistry student Leigh Peck and Mechanical Engineering student Kofi Fox represented the University at Make UK’s National Manufacturing Conference in London.

At the conference, they took part in the #GenerationZ workshops where they helped employers develop strategies for effectively engaging with and attracting young people and graduates into their businesses.

They also had the opportunity to listen to keynote speeches from industry leaders, politicians and leading figures in sport and the media, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Dame Katherine Grainger, Britain’s most decorated female Olympic athlete and now Chair of UK Sport.

Generation Z, also known as Post-Millennials or the iGeneration, refers to people born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s.

Olivia, 21, has recently completed a placement year with Nissan in Sunderland. Leigh 23, has recently done a placement with Smith and Nephew in Hull, while Kofi, 19, is due to start a placement with Hull-based engineering firm Spencer Group.

Below they give their thoughts on how employers can attract talent and what they are looking for in a job.


Q: What advice would you give to employers on how to attract the brightest talent?

Olivia: Employers need to engage with students aged 18 and below, as this is when they are thinking about what to do in the future. Manufacturing and other subjects sometimes need specific degrees for different avenues. Students must be aware of these avenues before reaching university, so they can choose degrees that are relevant to their field of interest. I also believe that more employers should be involved with their local university.  This could include attending job fairs or engaging with the university by offering 

challenges and competitions to help students know what the company expects of its employees. Good engagement makes the company more appealing to students. 

Leigh: Employers should advertise relocation packages. If clever students don't have the funds to move to a new city straight out of university, even if they are the best fit, they may not apply or turn it down. Support in the early months of employment would increase the retention of graduates. Employers should also look to attract students while they are at secondary schools and college, through work experience and summer placements. 

Kofi: The key to attracting new talent is to improve the image of engineering. At secondary school some of my peers commended me on my pursuit of engineering, while others viewed it as menial and dirty. Lots of my peers thought engineers and mechanics were synonymous. Employers need to be careful with a phrase I heard and saw on multiple occasions at the event. That phrase was ‘sexy engineering’. I agreed with what they were trying to do, but not on the delivery. If they did push that, they might create a generation of engineers who only want to work on the most aesthetically pleasing projects.


Q: What do you want to do when you finish your studies and what are you looking for in an employer?

OliviaI am currently looking for a job as a software developer. I am looking at businesses that offer flexible roles that promise no day will be the same. I want an employer that encourages skills growth, so that I am constantly learning on the job, which as a developer would be critical for my professional growth.

Leigh: I want to do a PhD but in terms of employment I want to see a mix of ages in the department when I come for interview; a clear career path and progression (I don’t want to be stuck in the same role for the 5 years); flexibility in hours; work/ home balance (I don’t want to be expected to do over time every day). 

Kofi: When I finish my studies, I want to make a change for the better in the world. Whether that may be more efficient and less environmentally-harmful vehicles, or working on new ways to transfer energy in the power industry. The scope is huge and I do not want to disregard any opportunities just yet. I’ll be honest, I’m also inspired by the prospect of making a lot of money. I want to work for a company with confidence to be daring and 'go against the grain'. I want the guidance and freedom to allow me to do something great.


Q: What was the highlight of the day for you?

Olivia: The highlight of the day was seeing how the business owners listened to the young people’s concerns and how they would implement them in their own businesses. It ranged from offering apprentices from the age of 16, to flexibility when working, to social media campaigns. It was good to see that they were interested in attracting young people to their company.

Leigh: Being actively involved in the conference, having business leaders ask me questions and genuinely caring about what attracts me to apply for jobs.

Kofi: The highlight of the day was speaking to the apprentices, gaining an insight into their learning pathway compared to mine. Not only that, but I couldn’t believe how much freedom and responsibility we had at this event. We really had the delegates' ears, and I know that I have grown as an engineer and as a person as a result. 


Q: In what ways do you think attending the event could help you in your own career?

Olivia:I was able to meet many different employers and ask them questions I had about their industry and connect with them on LinkedIn. I was also able to see what employers wanted from new recruits and what their expectations were. 

Leigh:It was a great networking opportunity and I gained a better understanding of the type of jobs which are available within engineering.  

Kofi: I accessed a lot if information about my chosen academic path, compared to the apprenticeship route - information that might have been difficult to find. The GenerationZ workshop gave me a clear view of what lies out there, beyond my University degree. 


Make UK, formerly EEF, is the voice of UK manufacturing and represents 20,000 companies of all sizes, from start-ups to multinationals, across engineering, manufacturing, technology and the wider industrial sector. It provides essential business support and training as well as championing manufacturing industry in the UK and the EU, with the aim of helping British manufacturers compete, innovate and grow. 

The students’ conference trip was organised by the University of Hull Careers Service and supported by the Faculty of Science and Engineering.

Mark Felgate, Employability Co-ordinator for the Faculty of Science & Engineering, said: “This was a fantastic opportunity to highlight the university on a national level, as well as offering our students the chance to develop their professional networking skills with leading companies in the manufacturing industry.”


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