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What happens if the life, job and career you aspire towards is not available where you grew up, or the environment that shaped your childhood and adolescence no longer exists? These are the questions facing graduates and mature professionals, particularly located in rural conurbations. Shaping the Future’s Project Director, Judy Craske, examines.

The impact of structural employment shifts has dramatically affected regions that became too reliant on single industries, or employers, which effectively created a monopoly over the local talent pool. HR professionals within a region, where one industry predominates can proactively engage together to help encourage a diversity of enterprise, encouraging new business start-ups potentially by offering expert skills sessions or training. This feeds into a wider strategy which sees HR directors working together as part of a wider conglomerate or body on a regional basis to affect change on a larger scale than would be possible as individual entities.

The introduction of Marco Talent Management (MTM) programme can prevent a skills drain from a region. This programme sees public and private stakeholders brought together to help ensure a sustainable economy in a region and particularly to establish an early warning system should major employers in the area get into trouble. A two pronged campaign can then be launched; the first ensures there are alternative employment opportunities, by boosting existing enterprise in the region or driving inward investment. The second component of the MTM is to create training and development schemes to ensure the indigenous workforce have the appropriate transferable skills to move into a new industry or start their own enterprises.

The risk of a graduate talent drain from regional economies is emphasised by an analysis of the Welsh marketplace, which is a net loser of graduates each year. Wales has lower retention rates than the other devolved nations in the proportion of graduates from Welsh Higher Education institutions who subsequently gain employment within Wales. This can be partly attributed to a lack of diversified employment opportunities as within Wales, as the main source of quality employment for non-migrant graduates is the public sector, which employs approximately half of post-1992 young graduates who were born and live in Wales. Without a broad spectrum of opportunities graduates are likely to migrate elsewhere nationally and internationally. One of the bi-products of Shaping the Future, an exemplar MTM programme established in North West Wales, is to help create a mixed economy in the region to help not only tackle a current issue regarding a soon to be displaced workforce, but also to create a sustainable economy to help prevent a longer term graduate ‘brain drain.’ The region is set to lose two large employers that are key components of the regional infrastructure when the Wylfa and Trawsfyndd nuclear power stations are decommissioned. Shaping The Future, an innovative programme funded by the European Social Fund, is bringing together businesses, the indigenous workforce, local public sector bodies and expert external consultants to prevent a skills drain from the region, a true MTM programme. If the programme is successful it will help foster an environment for entrepreneurship within the region, encouraging those of all ages to start their own enterprises and drive inward investment to create a sustainable economy that offers a range of employment positions.

This will help engage talented graduates to remain in the area and to even migrate to the region from elsewhere. One of the vital factors when assessing how to keep young people engaged with an area is ongoing communication. What is often overlooked is the importance of instigating a programme of continuous engagement to keep people engaged with their region of origin if they leave for additional study, be in an apprenticeship or graduate education elsewhere. If we look at the case of youth employment and graduates, there is an argument for HR managers to identify those leaving the region for study opportunities and continuing to engage with them through their graduate education. These individuals can then be flagged to as valuable, highly trained candidates and directed to particular graduate recruitment schemes and vacancies.

Where HR professionals can really exert an influence is in the realm of engagement and future proofing their businesses, by ensuring there is an engaged talent pool they can tap into in the future. Combining direct engagement at a company level with potential future employees and making a concerted attempt to work with partners to drive investment in a region is an effective strategy to help prevent a talent drain. HR managers need to be proactive and take on a wider role in future if they are to help ensure effective pools of talent for recruitment, as market ‘buying power’ may not be sufficient or feasible to attract the calibre of candidates required. Looking beyond the confines of a business, working in partnership with other enterprises while not sacrificing competitive advantage, is set to be a key industry paradigm moving forward.

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