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How small employers pull big talent

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How small employers pull big talent

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Simon Russell, Director of Consulting at Work Group, gave a presentation at the AGCAS Graduates into Smaller Businesses Conference in Birmingham on 26 November.

He argued that the principles of employer marketing remain the same whether you're an SME or large employer. What's more, smaller employers have a clear advantage over the heavyweight graduate employers.

Simon Russell, Director of Consulting at Work Group, gave a presentation at the AGCAS Graduates into Smaller Businesses Conference in Birmingham on 26 November.

He argued that the principles of employer marketing remain the same whether you're an SME or large employer. What's more, smaller employers have a clear advantage over the heavyweight graduate employers.

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How small employers pull big talent

  1. 1. Punching above our weight How small employers pull big talent
  2. 2. Brenda Carter, Resourcing Partner, The Wellcome Trust Simon Russell, Director of Consulting, Work Group
  3. 3. The Argument The principles of employer marketing are exactly the same, however big or small you are. What’s more, smaller companies can have a clear advantage over the juggernauts of the graduate market, especially when it comes to attracting the entrepreneurial, buccaneering individuals who could make the biggest difference to your business.
  4. 4. „I don‟t know what an SME is…‟ TARGETJobs Poll - October 2013
  5. 5. “When I grow up I want to work for an SME…”
  6. 6. So just how good are the „top‟ graduate employers?
  7. 7. Your true nature may only emerge when you find yourself cornered. <---------------------26cm---------------------> <---------------18cm------------>
  8. 8. A „trope‟ originally described a figure of speech but increasingly it is taken to mean those common conventions, devices and clichés found in creative works.
  9. 9. Trope #1 A young person holds up a sign with SOMETHING WRITTEN ON IT.
  10. 10. Bob Dylan - Subterranean Homesick Blues, 1965
  11. 11. 2007
  12. 12. 2008
  13. 13. 2007
  14. 14. 2011
  15. 15. Trope #2 Young people jump into the air in unison, expressing joy and excitement that scarce may be contained.
  16. 16. Cultural reference: A-level results day in the local press…
  17. 17. 2002
  18. 18. 2002
  19. 19. 2001
  20. 20. 2009
  21. 21. The question facing creative teams in the middle of the first decade of the twenty- first century was, “Can we create even more visual impact and exhilaration than we have seen here?”
  22. 22. The question facing creative teams in the middle of the first decade of the twenty- first century was, “Can we create even more visual impact and exhilaration than we have seen here?” The answer was, “Yes we can.”
  23. 23. THE DIATROPE In which two tropes are combined to create an impact that is even more striking than the sum of its parts.
  24. 24. 2009
  25. 25. Trope #3 Tragic hubris that sometimes provokes the gods to wrath.
  26. 26. 2007
  27. 27. We should all feel good about this because we can all do better than this.
  28. 28. 2013
  29. 29. SMILEY, HAPPY FACE [] BRAND CHECK [] ARBITRARY RANKING [] MISCHIEVOUS WORDPLAY [] INVESTOR IN PEOPLE [] 2013
  30. 30. 2013
  31. 31. What makes an employer of choice?
  32. 32. Alex decides.
  33. 33. 1,800 000 people
  34. 34. 50 people
  35. 35. What makes an employer of choice?
  36. 36. So do you want to be BIG or do you want go SPECIFIC?
  37. 37. It is much more useful to focus on the benefits to the graduates – especially those ambitious, entrepreneurial and dynamic individuals who have most to gain by joining a fast-growing, successful company.
  38. 38. One in a thousand?
  39. 39. If you join a big employer, you may be one in a thousand, with everything that implies. On the other hand, if you join a small company, you matter. You are really important to that organisation. This perspective helps to build a compelling, three-part proposition…
  40. 40. Increased Visibility Bigger Personal Impact Greater Growth Potential
  41. 41. VISIBILITY The big employers can hire graduates in their thousands. SME businesses will recruit very few and so each one will be more rare, special and valuable. Visibility means that you matter to the business – and you are also far more likely to have exposure to the leaders and decision-makers of the organisation. You are likely to see and experience more of the business, too.
  42. 42. IMPACT Smaller organisations tend to give graduates bigger challenges and responsibilities, relatively earlier in their careers. That means you can demonstrate your value and make a difference to the business. Smaller organisations may have less structured career paths, but they can also offer a steeper learning curve and accelerated progress for high-performers.
  43. 43. POTENTIAL The best SMEs are those organisations which are not only successful, but also growing fast. Business growth means greater scope for personal and professional development; in certain cases, it may also bring opportunities to build substantial personal wealth. Joining an SME is always a more entrepreneurial choice; there are greater risks and rewards.
  44. 44. VISIBILITY IMPACT POTENTIAL
  45. 45. What’s that spell?
  46. 46. V.I.P. A company that treats graduates as Very Important People will also be a very attractive employer. Welcome to the VIPER list.
  47. 47. THE VIPER LIST. “A confederacy of high-growth, opportunity-rich companies with something special to offer the UK’s most ambitious, entrepreneurial graduates.”
  48. 48. Fast-growing High-potential Talent-hungry
  49. 49. Fast-growing High-potential Talent-hungry and challenging
  50. 50. Give and Take
  51. 51.  SPIRIT OF THE buccaneer 
  52. 52. Entrepreneurial individuals of flair and bravado who back their own judgement and stake their own skill and potential against the world. These are the people who really make a difference.  SPIRIT OF THE buccaneer 
  53. 53. big ≠ bad
  54. 54. big ≠ bad but small can be very good
  55. 55. The obvious response is to club together, to pool resources, to present a concerted front to the graduate market as the VIPER list.
  56. 56. YOU’LL HAVE MORE FUN WITH A VIPER..
  57. 57. It turns out that big isn’t really so beautiful after all. YOU’LL HAVE MORE FUN WITH A VIPER
  58. 58. Imagine having 184,235 new friends. YOU’LL HAVE MORE FUN WITH A VIPER
  59. 59. If you’re one in a thousand, nobody hears you. YOU’LL HAVE MORE FUN WITH A VIPER
  60. 60. The obvious response is to club together, to pool resources, to present a concerted front to the graduate market. But the true way of the viper is more subtle…
  61. 61. Strength is not always found in the numbers…
  62. 62. Things we’ve noticed about successful smaller graduate recruiters Senior people are interested and involved in graduate recruitment. The assessment process is rigorous and specific. The business thinks through what kind of graduates it wants and what it wants them to do. It also thinks carefully about what the right graduates will get out of the experience. Training doesn’t necessarily have to be formal or highly structured, but there is always high-quality mentoring and coaching provided. There is clear and specific accountability for the well-being and progress of graduates. Graduates get to move around and experience different parts of the business. Graduates are given real jobs to do, often with substantial responsibility and impact. They are not seen as cheap labour and may earn quite as much as their big-company peers. There are clear career paths for graduates, although they might well leave to pursue them. There is a sincere pride and satisfaction in seeing graduates grow and prosper.
  63. 63. Wellcome Trust Graduate Development Programme Brenda Carter Resourcing Partner
  64. 64. About us We are a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. We support the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. Our breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health.
  65. 65. Why hire graduates? (or interns….or apprentices!)
  66. 66. How….?
  67. 67. What will you do? UK Researchers, GM, Policy Funders UK & International researchers Antimicrobial resistance is a major global threat! What can the Trust do? Jemima What lessons has the Trust learnt about strengthening research capacity in LMICs? Anna Funders, LMIC researchers Deans, VCs Mythbuster: Are researchers really more successful if they change institutions? Sarah How successful are institutions in LMICs at obtaining Trust grants? Alexis LMIC Researchers, GM, Policy And many more other exciting opportunities!!
  68. 68. Impact?
  69. 69. Things to consider
  70. 70. Your graduate is worth more than PwC’s.
  71. 71.  JARGON ALERT!
  72. 72. Employee Value Proposition
  73. 73. Employee Value Proposition
  74. 74. Why work here?
  75. 75. What makes you special as a business is what makes you special as an employer.
  76. 76. WHO WHY WHAT WHERE
  77. 77. THE PEOPLE YOU NEED Why should the people you want to employ, choose to build a career with you, rather than anyone else? THE WORK THEY WILL DO THE COMPANY THEY WILL JOIN
  78. 78.  Engage the entire organisation  Design the working experience  Define what you offer as an employer  Identify the people you want  Get in front of your audience  Choose the right people  Look after them, coach them, mentor them Towards the VIP…  Give them interesting things to do  Measure and improve the results  Tell the story and share the glory
  79. 79. Trainee Business Writer What can you do with an English degree? Work is the engagement and resourcing business that helps employers find, keep and motivate the people they need. Our consulting team is now looking for a Writer-Analyst to work on a range of internal and external communications tasks, from employee engagement campaigns to business change programmes. This is a hugely rewarding way to write for a living that offers substantial scope for personal and professional development. Chaos and tease You will rarely be working from a formal brief because part of our job is to clarify the communication challenge. Correlating information and research from many different sources, you will bring order out of chaos and tease coherent themes from even the densest corporate undergrowth. And then you‟ll write something clear, fresh and vivid to get your message across. After which, we will probably cover it in red ink and encourage you to have another go. What you hoped Consulting with Work requires absolute commitment to client fortunes and a belief in the importance of what you are doing. You will soon be working on client-facing projects, although you will be very closely mentored at first. We are looking for a bright, highly motivated graduate who already has at least a year‟s business experience; it may be that you have embarked on a career path in some other field of professional services which wasn‟t quite what you hoped. Pundits carping Wherever you are coming from, you must be one of life‟s high-achievers, who is already using words – spoken and written – to get what you want. A good degree in English will count in your favour, not least because we are tired of pundits carping about useless arts graduates. Join us and you will be helping to put the wheels back on the economy in a very tangible way. To apply, please send a CV and a piece of writing that shows what you can do but isn‟t a poem about your cat.
  80. 80. Practising what we preach One online posting cost £475 There were over 200 applications Most were poor-quality or irrelevant 10 invited for first interview 5 taken to final assessment 3 jobs filled, good candidates to spare
  81. 81. Just last week... Royal Academy of Engineering Round Table on Overseas Recruitment 21st November 2013
  82. 82. Why don’t the big companies supply their suppliers?
  83. 83. 7,000 applications for a hundred jobs
  84. 84. Although we weren’t able to offer you a role on this occasion, we were very impressed with your application and we would be happy to work with you in the future. So here’s the thing: there are several brilliant precision engineering companies in our supply chain who are looking for graduate engineers with exactly the kind of qualities and potential you have already demonstrated to us. We can make an introduction and, if you are happy for us to share your application data, you could also benefit from an accelerated selection process. If you would like to know more about opportunities with our partners, please visit talentlink.com
  85. 85. Simon Russell Director of Consulting 0207 492 0017 simon.russell@workcomms.com

Notas del editor

  • This is what I’ll be talking about.
  • A simple impact analysis of the term SME shows that ‘SMALL’ is the bit that sticks in your mind, especially if you don’t understand what SME stands for. So the phrase, ‘small- to medium-sized enterprise’ comes with the inferiority complex built-in. You’re defining yourself by the terms set by your competitors. The most important thing about your organisation – as a business or as an employer – is not its size.
  • Fortunately, most of the people you are after don’t know what an SME is anyway: But the top answer (36%) was, tellingly: ‘I don’t know what an SME is’I’m a bit surprised that the figure is only 36%; I think if two-thirds of students could reliably explain what an SME is, we’d be in a very good place. And if they don’t know what an SME is, you can sidestep the negative associations….It doesn’t matter: SME is a neutral label that tells you very little about the organisation or the opportunity. Just about the size: never mind the quality feel the width.
  • As a fast-growing, innovative and progressive company, you don’t have to let other people define what you are. Kids don’t dream about the size of the business they work in: it’s about what they want to do. Indeed some of the more sophisticated thinking on engagement in general is showing that people relate to the work they do more than the organisation they do it in. So for example?
  • Here are some small organisations by headcount that would surely be fantastic aspirational places to work.
  • The answer to this, I can confidently assert, is not as good as you might think.
  • Earlier this year I carried out a subjective analysis of ten years of graduate advertising placed by employers who made it into the Times Top 100.Now of course, it’s the easiest thing in the world to criticise other people’s work. But it’s also huge fun, once you get your eye in.
  • But when you are forced into the constrictions of a press ad or web listing, it really exposes the clarity of your thinking and the logic of your proposition.
  • This is what a trope is. At the end of the day, it’s a CLICHÉ. It’s an idea that gets used again and again…
  • So let’s take an example…Every real TROPE starts with an original cultural reference. And for this one, we can go all the way back to the 1960s.
  • The tension and enjoyment comes from the fact that you never know if Bob’s dealing of the boards is going to keep up with the song. It’s fun, because it’s original and it accents the rhythm and pace of the blues, while turning the singer/songwriter into a mute witness of the message. Now what could graduate marketing do with something like this?
  • No movement. No pace. No surprise. Just a contrived delivery of a dead platitude, rendered in two levels of 2D that make everything flatter than the winner of the 2007 All Norfolk Pancake Competition.
  • In this version, they haven’t even managed to get all the words on the board.
  • Nice use of tantalising, coded symbols.Or no, actually crap sententious use of meaningless symbolism.
  • This is my favourite, mind: My neighbours didn’t realise I help protect national security until I decided to stand outside holding this sign up, as you do. I want to draw your attention to the man in the background who is clearly wearing a chain mail vest, so he is taking threats to national security in a very literal and personal sense. This is a haubergeon of course, not a hauberk. A hauberk would come down to at least the mid-thigh level; this is the shorter haubergeon associated with lower status fighting men.
  • Jumping up and down – where is the cultural reference for this one?
  • It’s results day, every year, in the local and national press. There’s no more natural or spontaneous way to celebrate universal grade inflation than to leap high in the air…
  • Here are some highly trained young professionals trying not to land on some frogs
  • We think there may have been a trampoline involved here. Or maybe trick photography.
  • Here some lively young people use the international language of jumping to express a sense of freedom. Note how extensive photo-shopping, cropping and bordering sets obvious and prescriptive limits, while disguising the fact they got this shot in one take. The gentleman on the right is wishing he had specified some limits, because he looks like he’s been fired from a cannon. The lady second left can’t do star jumps.
  • This is perhaps the most disturbing shot of all the jumping shots. Falling with style. The only way from here is down, and quite a long way down. Having first removed your shoes of course. See if you can guess the sector.
  • Well what do you think?
  • Oh yes indeed. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the diatrope.
  • This is known in the trade as a synthesis….
  • This is one of my favourite graduate advertisements of all time. Two people jumping up in the air while ALSO holding onto a sign quite tightly. With only part of the message on. Imagine what it took to set this up and get it absolutely right.These two have both got upper seconds from Russell Group universities so they haven’t got a care in the world. And with jumping like that, they’ll soon be through that glass ceiling.ubs
  • Imagine it’s 2007 and you’re a big, beautiful bank that’s getting bigger all the time. Are you going to go for civilised, restrained understatement?No sir you are not.
  • When you understand what’s really going on here, when you understand just how arch and contrived and conceited this is, you want something horrible to happen to them. “The people who create our recruitment adverts fid it a bit difficult to keep up with us.” So who, exactly, is writing this, then?HBOS collapsed in 2008, with the loss of thousands of jobs and a twenty-billion pound taxpayer bail out.
  • Yes we can.
  • Here’s an ad that did really well in focus groups, being picked out spontaneously and unprompted by students as a great ad.
  • Was it because it ticked all the usual boxes. Nope. It was because there was a definitive reason why the right people would want to apply…
  • Early responsibility. Personal impact. Prestige. There is a proposition here that resonates with what the right kind of gradates wanted…
  • So here is an interesting question…
  • Two companies…Which is the strongest employer brand?Is it about fame, profile and reputation?
  • Alex decidesNow you might be asking, WHO is this Alex of whom you speak?And that is a very good question. And not just a very good question, but the most important question… Because decisions about Employer of Choice status depend entirely on who is doing the choosing.
  • MacDBecause if Alex is looking for high-quality management training and strong development opportunities in the fast-food industry, but doesn’t have 600 UCAS points, it might well be argued that McDonalds is a great place to start.
  • EcofinHowever, if Alex already has three years’ experience with a leading investment bank, he might well be interested in a small but global hedge fund called Ecofin that specialises in alternative energy and the environment.Ecofin isn’t famous, it doesn’t feature in the Sunday Times Top 100, it has never won an employer branding award and it doesn’t much care, either.The power of the employer brand is defined exclusively by the audience.
  • So not size, sector, reputation or good intentions.It all depends on who is doing the choosing.
  • So this is another point of reassurance: you don’t want to hire a thousand graduates – you just want to hire the people who are right for you.
  • Not everyone wants to be another brick in the wall. And we could be doing much more to promote the positive alternatives to the corporate sausage machines.
  • This looks like a good place to start. Because it’s such an obvious Achilles heel for the big companies.
  • So let’s pull it apart and look at that in more detail. And the interesting thing is that you get three dimensions which students say the want from their early career and which they constantly over-estimate in terms of heir expectations of the workplace.
  • This is about seeing more – and being seen.
  • There is truth to be shared here. There are ups and downs to the SME path and if you are honest about these your overall employment offer is more credible and persuasive.
  • Being small doesn’t make you a great graduate employer, otherwise every corner shop and chimney sweep would be trying to hire graduates. That’s why the SME definition that focuses on size is so misleading. You have to be growing and you have to be doing interesting, challenging things.
  • So summing it up….
  • And with apologies to Country Joe and the Fish at Woodstock….
  • You get to a very different kind of definition that is not based primarily on size.The question is, are you a VIPER?
  • If you can define a common proposition that unites a specific class of companies, you could begin to work together to promote that alternative opportunity to the student market. The important thing is that you are selective about your audience: this is not for everyone!This leads us to a refined form of graduate attraction…
  • VIPER companies are all these things…
  • But no-one is saying that they offer an easy life. They don’t. We don’t. So the thing about VIPERS is that we make special demands, offer special challenges and promise special rewards… We have to have the courage to be different – not just smaller versions of big companies.
  • You have phenomenal opportunities, but only for the right kind of people. So those people who want the security and predictability of a large business; those people who want the certainties of a stratified hierarchy and a job-for-life career ladder; and those people who care most about working for a big safe business that their parents have heard of – all of these are not right for the VIPER company. So who are you looking for?
  • What’s important here is that we start to build the idea that working for the smaller organisation – the most creative, dynamic, fast-growing, entrepreneurial and vital part of the economy is really cool.
  • Against this comparison, being a trainee accountant doesn’t seem so sexy after all…
  • We’re not saying big is bad as such. If you’re a bit timid and set in your ways and you like to know where you stand, big is definitely the way to go…
  • But before you make that choice, you need to know what you might be giving up….
  • So you might club together, chuck some budget in the pot and create the VIPER list as a functioning entity. As we’ve seen, you wouldn’t have to spend very much to make a better splash than some of the big employers.
  • It would be important that your messaging was edgy, challenging and inspiring. It’s not just what you say, it’s the way you say it. And given that SME is a disparaging term, there’s nothing to stop you biting back with a little venom.
  • You could have some fun implying that the big employers are like dinosaurs…
  • Or maybe like a totalitarian, impersonal hierarchy
  • …or you could evoke a Kafka-esque nightmare in which the individual is lost in a faceless bureaucracy….
  • But if the obvious thing to do is to club together, it is not necessarily the best thing to do. The way of the Viper is altogether more subtle – and you could well do it alone.
  • I want to introduce an idea that might change how you look at graduate recruitment. This is not a David and Goliath battle in which you can’t win without divine help. You may already have a winning hand, but you need to play your cards right….
  • We can turn the VIP offer to graduates on its head. The visibility, impact and potential that you promise to graduates implies that they are likely to have a bigger impact on your business. For big firms, graduates are cannon fodder. For you, they are game changers.This is not fanciful: when you look at the features that seem to define successful smaller employers, we see them making a substantial and concerted investment in graduates and the graduate working experience. This is a virtuous circle of mutual benefit that we could exploit a great deal more.
  • So the theme that underpins the VIPER model is that your graduate is going to do more and deliver more than the same graduate joining a large employer. But only if you create the circumstances in which they can thrive. So this is where fundamental employer marketing principles come in.
  • And this is where the jargon kicks in, so tin hats on everyone.It can’t be avoided - we need to talk about something called an EVP.
  • It’s still basically jargon though. Fortunately, like most ideas that have any merit, it can also be explained in plain English. Like this in fact….
  • It’s a simple question, but you’d be surprised how much recruitmentmaterial does not give convincing reasons why people should apply for the job. There’s usually lots of person spec about a 2.1 and excellent communication skills, but the ‘attraction content’ is limited and generic. The L’Oreal ad we saw gave that strong reason: you’ll be running your own brand within four weeks. If you’re competing with big, household name employers, you have to give students strong reasons to join you, and by ‘strong’ we mean both attractive and demonstrably true. If possible, you want your reasons to differentiate you from everyone else. Which leads us to a great rule of thumb…
  • Whatever you are as a business – by size, shape, spirit, sector or specialisation – that should also define what you are as an employer. This helps you keep it honest and convincing.This link is important because it means that the more honestly you convey the realities of your workplace, the more of the right people will join you and build a career with you. And the more cleanly you will differentiate your employment offer from the crowd.This anticipates some of the more sophisticated thinking on employee engagement, too: it’s about aligning the strategy and objectives of the business with the ambitions and aspirations of the individual.
  • The questions to ask are quite simple, basically who, what, where and why. Who do you want, what do you want them to do, where will they be working and – most importantly of all – why should they?This may seem so obviously self-evident as to be hardly worth remarking on, but many employers, large and small, still fall at this first hurdle. Conversely, get this bit right, and everything else follows.
  • The reason we put this in a triangle is that it allows us to create compelling arguments grounded in fundamental truth. You can combine the three points of the triangle to build causal links between apparently different aspects of the business. So for example, the reason we are a great home for an ambitious and highly skilled engineering graduate like you, is that we offer you the chance to work on full-cycle design projects within a small but highly respected precision engineering business that provides avionics components for the world’s two biggest aerospace manufacturers.There are many ways round the triangle and you should include the downs as well as the ups. You might say that you sometimes have to work long hours, especially running up to project deadlines; it might also be a sleeves-rolled-up kind of business where everyone mucks in on the admin, and you don’t have the frills and fancy bits associated with Boeing or Airbus. On the other hand you will be producing world-class avionics and there are excellent prospects for advancement to team leader within two years, because that’s what the last person who did your job did….
  • Here’s a recent example of a graduate recruitment exercise for our own business. Notice that this is very specific in its targeting, right down to the degree subject.There are lots of reasons why you might want to do this fantastic job for this legendary company, but we are also honest about the fact that the early months are likely to be hard and frustrating as everyone will be criticising and red-inking your work.The sub-headlines are playing with words in a way designed to appeal to would-be writers who understand enjoy how we are playing with written form and function. There is a very subtle anti-big company barb in this too: we have received applications from – and indeed hired – people who are straight out of university, but the reference to some other field of professional services which wasn’t quite what you had hoped implies that such disappointment is commonplace. Long live the VIPERs. So how did it go?
  • The attraction exercise was pretty cheap in terms of the media and production cost, although we used quite a bit of senior time in screening and interviewing. This of course, is exactly what you would expect from a VIPER. What’s more, the investment we will put into coaching and training these people will be substantial and extended. We can do this because we know the return on such investment will be enormous. All the people who got to the final stage were very impressive indeed; they were, for example, brighter and better than I was at their stage – and I probably wouldn’t have made it through our selection process.
  • That ladies and gentlemen, is the way of the Viper and it really works…
  • I’ve got one more zonking idea to share with you. Last Thursday my colleague was speaking at the Royal Academy Round Table when the debate turned to small companies – and how difficult it was for them to find engineering talent.
  • This was the suggestion from the floor and it’s a doozie.
  • One major-league employer said that she received 7,000 applications for a hundred jobs. You can see why graduate recruitment is sometimes described as the management of disappointment. But here’s the thing: among those 6,900 rejected candidates were some stonking young graduates, who had been pretty extensively tested and validated as having the right stuff. Why not refer the best of them into the employer’s supply chain? This is an idea where everybody wins: the big employer does a good thing in CSR terms but is also seen to be supporting their partners; the small companies get a rich pool of great candidates who are pre-qualified and pre-sifted. And instead of being turned down, the individual students are encouraged, reassured and given a hotline to some exciting new opportunities they didn’t know existed. The engineering profession and the technical economy also benefit because those graduates don’t go off and do banking and accountancy instead… It would surely be fairly easy to set up.
  • The message could be relatively simple….
  • On behalf of Brenda and me, thanks for having us.

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