The Talent Wars

How the War for Talent is Impacting Higher Education

Jun 28, 2021 - Cat DiStasio

There’s been a lot of buzz lately about the war for talent—mostly around what is causing the talent shortage and what employers and policy makers can do about it. Universities and colleges may often be left out of the conversations, but the reality is that the current condition of the labor market actually has a big impact on higher education.

And that’s not just related to hiring for staff and faculty positions. The talent war can also affect how universities and colleges interact with current and prospective students, especially as things heat up in certain industries and the adoption of remote and hybrid work becomes even more prevalent. Higher ed institutions need to understand the latest labor market trends and adjust their strategies and tactics to get the results they count on.

Talent shortages impact college admissions

Most prospective college students have career goals in mind when they’re comparing schools, however broad or specific. For many students, news of talent shortages in certain industries or positions signal a ripe opportunity. This means today’s talent shortages could drive interest in career paths that are currently underserved.

Admissions departments can incorporate this into their strategies for attracting new students, by highlighting programs in those fields and targeting students who are interested in pursuing those types of roles. Consider hosting virtual admissions events to help students get more information about what your institution offers—alongside financial aid information and a look at student life—to help students understand why your school best fits their needs as well as their career aspirations.

Shine a light on career prospects

Forward-thinking students often choose schools based largely on how your programs or degree will help their future career. For many, that includes the likelihood of finding a job in their field of study right after graduation, or even internships and work-study programs while still in school.

This presents a wonderful opportunity for admissions and career services departments to work together around messaging and events (both virtual and in-person) to show students what is possible. Highlight student success stories, feature employers who frequently hire graduates of your school, and let students know about future internship opportunities to help them build experience in their field. Much of this can be incorporated into virtual and in-person information sessions for prospective students, as well as web content, email communication, and social media marketing.

Going a bit further, be sure to highlight virtual career fairs in your admissions marketing efforts so that students can see firsthand how your institution proactively helps students land great internships while they’re studying and connects graduates with top employers for full-time jobs to launch their careers.

Illustrate how you help students find work

Students expect higher ed institutions to help them navigate the job search, from part-time jobs during school to summer jobs to internships to their first full-time professional position in their field of study. Career services departments can make it easy for students to understand the resources available by incorporating information and stories about this support throughout your messaging and events. Host virtual job fairs focused on summer jobs, on internships, or on jobs with flexible schedules. Additionally, you can set students up for success by hosting virtual events for resume reviews, mock interviews, or any other aspect of the job hunt that students at your school may struggle with.

It’s also helpful to give students a glimpse into their future. Publish testimonials and videos from students/graduates who have gone on to work in their field of study—or, better yet, host a Q&A event with a panel of graduates and let students ask them questions about their experience.

Keeping tabs on the labor market

Labor trends evolve rapidly, and universities and colleges need to be ready to respond. Stay informed about what is happening in the labor market—not just in your local geographic area, but across the country. Look closely at the industries that align with your major academic programs, and think about how prospective students will respond to the news of talent shortages or surpluses, the rise of remote work, and other factors influencing the future of work. What questions will they have? What will become most important to them? What do they need from a school? Anticipate the answers to these questions, incorporate them into your messaging and events, and you’ll be doing your best to future proof your school in the talent war.

For more information on how higher ed institutions are adapting to virtual events and designing hybrid event strategies to meet students’ and staff needs, download the Brazen 2021 Higher Education Virtual Event Report here.

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