Why graduate recruitment programs are back in the spotlight


Can we have a hallelujah over here?

Why? Because organisations are realising graduate recruitment and training programmes are more than simply a way to get top talent through the door

Sure, talent acquisition is part of it (especially in today’s market), but bottom line? These programs need substance, thought and expertise to actually make them worthwhile. 


Who better, then, to talk us through this HR hot spot than Brightworks founder, Lou Zoanetti? Despite calling herself a ‘geriatric millennial’, Lou’s insights are as fresh, interesting and unique as the grads she supports every day.

Lou started her career in PR and marketing at NAB, but was quickly pulled into the bank’s newly-formed grad program. Before long, she was heading up that program and, with some serious experience under her belt, then moved to Monash University. She spent several years setting up and running the university’s internship function before establishing Brightworks in 2021.

And Lou’s passion and knowledge was exactly what we needed for our latest podcast series, Emerging Trends in the World of Emerging Talent

She told us why there’s a place for graduate programs, how organisations are adapting to market needs and the importance of embracing change

Are graduate and early careers actually exciting?

Short answer: yes.

You see, not so long ago, graduate recruitment was considered a ‘bottom of the barrel’ place to start earning your HR stripes

Lou begs to differ.

‘That ability to have an impact on someone’s career [from] the start [is] actually why we’re all in it,’ she enthuses. ‘We love seeing the outcomes, we love seeing young people confidently enter the workplace – or build that confidence through really great talent development programs.

‘I’m so passionate about [the] vital role early careers talent [plays] in the makeup of the future workforce of Australia and the world. Finally I feel like we’ve got a seat at the table and…are so valued now.’

That’s a big YES, then. In fact, graduate and burgeoning careers aren’t just exciting – they’re rewarding, too. 

How’s the marketing changing for grad recruitment?

While graduate programs aren’t new, not all organisations have traditionally used them. But, says Lou, with today’s tight talent market, that’s changing.

‘Companies that have never had graduate programs…are now starting to set them up,’ explains Lou. 

However, Lou has a word of warning: graduate and internship programs aren’t the quick fix some businesses are looking for.

‘I think a lot of organisations who are struggling to get experienced talent are looking to grab an internship program as a silver bullet,’ she tells us. ‘[But] if those things aren’t set up well, they won’t stand up. You want some longevity in this!’

The current talent shortage is also prompting organisations to consider international and TAFE students.

‘With the government announcing a longer graduate visa…it means we’re opening up our talent pools [globally],’ Lou says. ‘I’m [also] really loving the opportunities for people…in more traineeship-based programs…where they get credentials as they go through.’

Graduate recruitment programs considered the ‘poor cousin’ of HR? Hardly!


Attracting and retaining grads: today’s challenges

According to Lou, there are 2 major obstacles in today’s emerging talent landscape: one within organisations; the other on the candidate side. 

‘I think there are some internal challenges that companies face around having a clear understanding of why [they’re] setting up a graduate program,’ Lou divulges. ‘I’ll go into organisations with really well-established programs and [ask] ‘what’s the purpose of your program?’. And they can’t talk to that, they don’t have that message right.’

And externally, it comes down to ‘the fleeting nature of candidates’, explains our favourite geriatric millennial (we are so bringing that into the vernacular!)

‘[We’re in] this market of trying to grab onto these candidates [who] want this process to be simple…and accessible…,’ Lou says. ‘We have to move really quickly to make sure we don’t lose out on those people. Otherwise, they’ll end up not going into graduate programs.’

Lou’s take on it? Ensure you’re in touch with the ‘really interesting market’ out there right now.

‘We have to adapt…[and] meet people where they’re at,’ she offers. ‘We have to respond to this digital generation of people who want it quick, automated [and]…gamified. We’re actively shortening application forms and trying to make it as easy as possible to apply.’

Anyone else feeling their age?


Start with human-centered design (and the rest will follow)

Here’s the thing: a solid graduate program will help emerging talent reach their potentialand meet business objectives. 

That’s why Lou thinks human-centered design is key to creating programs people want to be part of – while still delivering those business results. 

‘When we build new programs for clients, we actually ask graduates what they want,’ she reveals. ‘[That means] we’re building it with the current graduate cohort…and using that human-centered design approach to…push out what’s feasible.

‘[We ask] what would the best program look like from a graduate point of view? From a business point of view? And then we worry about feasibility down the track in terms of that business case.

‘What we are coming up with, I believe, are new programs that meet the needs of what graduates are looking for, [as well as] the business requirements of what those programs absolutely need to deliver.’



Grad training and development (and the Covid legacy)

Got a market teeming with wannabe entrepreneurs? Then graduate training and development has to adjust accordingly.

And Lou reckons when your current candidates have grown up in today’s complex world (including living through a pandemic), agility is everything

‘We’ve got core competencies around leadership, resilience, problem solving and teamwork – those will always be there,’ she says. ‘[But] there are some skills maybe needed that we haven’t talked about previously – like business writing, financial literacy and complex problem solving…[really] a deeper understanding of how you can use the entrepreneur mindset in a work context.

‘So you can take these young people who want to run their own businesses…and make that work in an organisation. And that’s exciting in terms of how we are going to approach the development space…and understand what these people need to [create] a grad program, [especially] in the aftermath of Covid [where everything shifted so dramatically].’

Going after today’s top talent

Need talent? You probably need a graduate recruitment, training and development program, too. Because by investing in emerging talent today, you’ll set your organisation up for success tomorrow

Want more insights into talent acquisition in a tight market? Check out our Emerging Trends in the World of Emerging Talent podcast series for expert tips, tricks and advice!

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