From careers and job fairs to apprenticeships and work placements. Employer engagement covers a large area, often covered by multiple departments.

We’ve listed the 5 key elements to building a successful employer engagement strategy within further education colleges. This is based on many years of working with colleges and seeing first-hand what has worked for them.


1.      Evaluate where you are now

Review your current situation. Do you need to increase the number of employers you are working with? Do you need to improve the relationships you have with existing employers? Remember, the quality of relationships is often more important than quantity.

If you need a bigger database of contacts – find the right people within organisations. Good people to start with are HR Directors, Learning and Development Managers and Heads of Recruitment. Alternatively, ask for people who have responsibility for community outreach; learning and development; early careers recruitment; skills development or education engagement.

Define two or three employer engagement objectives based on your wider business objectives, and use these to shape your outgoing messaging.


2.      Understand your audience

Develop highly targeted campaigns and know your target audience – do not be everything to everyone – tailor your activities to the employer’s needs and interests.

Use the employer’s language and do your research to demonstrate knowledge in their sector.

Use local labour market information where you can identify current job vacancies that could in fact be converted into an apprenticeship. Labour market data will also tell you more about local organisations – in terms of their staffing and skills needs – which will enable you to approach them with the most relevant information…..


3.      Target your message

Always look to establish a connection and build your relationships with individuals. Get to know who you deal with as a person as well as a professional.

Promote and deliver products and services that are relevant and that meet industry needs. Look at what employer’s business and workforce needs are, and use this insight to find realistic solutions that fit those needs.

Communicate with businesses throughout the year so they feel part of your college community.  Show an interest in their business and let them know what is happening in yours.


4.      Keep it varied and interesting

Run events, workshops, master classes on knowledge transfer, inviting contributions, sharing best practice and inviting speakers from the business community.

Sustain relationships with employers by keeping in touch, asking them to attend business networking events, keeping them informed of any new projects or services you can provide to create opportunities for business.

Request feedback and an evaluation at the end of your employer engagement activities and use the results to shape your future events.


5.      Utilise the right technology

Establish and train staff in effective use of a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System – ideally one that centres around your employer engagement activities.

Develop a holistic approach to your data. Considering there are likely to be several departments involved, it is important to have a central database of all your contacts. Include contacts from your suppliers as well. Some may be open to industry visits or having an apprentice. All this information should be kept centrally to maximise your reach.

Your employer database should include all relevant information including whether they offer apprenticeships or not. An employer engagement CRM helps to cut time spent on administration and improves productivity.

Ultimately the right CRM system will improve the productivity of your teams with proper data management and lead flow, not to mention the ability to view all opportunities and contacts on a dashboard to identify areas where your strategy is working best.