Active recruitment of young academics

Students or graduates looking for a potential employer usually focus on major companies with high-profile names. Hidden champions such as the hubergroup – a market leader with sales figures in the three-digit million range, yet less prominent in the national recognition stakes – often find it more difficult to attract applicants.

What can companies do for an activerecruitment of young academics? Image source: vectorfusionart - Stock Adobe -

By Marion Steinhart, hubergroup

Printing inks manufacturer hubergroup targets its personnel marketing at universities. For some time now, hubergroup has no longer relied just on the traditional job advertisements when looking for highly skilled workers. The family-run company has been targeting universities to acquire new employees.

“It has become increasingly important in the context of our junior development programme to convince the high flyers at universities that we offer extensive career opportunities,” explains Silke Cuny, Head of Product Development Sheetfed and, together with Personnel Officer Marion Kastl, the contacts at hubergroup Germany for the university targeting project. “Students who get to know the company when completing their final thesis or doing an internship realise how varied the opportunities for graduates are.”

The chemical industry is popular – but the chemistry is not always right

At first glance, the decision by the human resources department to deploy long-term recruitment policy cannot have been based on a lack of young talent. After all, there are actually enough students in the different fields of chemistry to go around. But many of them secure places in other areas of industry, join a research institute, enter the public sector, continue their studies, become self-employed or emigrate. Another point is that many graduates strive to do their PhD rather than embarking directly on their professional career. The situation is somewhat more encouraging for chemistry and chemical engineering graduates at institutes of applied sciences. But still, there is clearly a limited pool of young talent for companies in the chemical industry to choose from.

The most important reason for establishing early contact, however, is a desire to build up a sound network that will allow the ideal candidate to be found as and when the time arises. “We want to hold on to, build up and develop our employees over the long term,” says HR expert Marion Kastl. “And the earlier we make contact with potential applicants, the sooner we can ensure that both sides are happy because they know what they are getting involved in and it means that we are seen earlier as a potential employer.” It goes without saying that working students, interns and students working on projects are properly remunerated for their time and effort. “Securing your livelihood provides the necessary freedom to focus on upcoming projects.”

A broad range of applications for chemists

There are more than 1000 employees working at the hubergroup’s German locations in Kirchheim near Munich, Celle and Berlin; Europe-wide they number 1700. “Not only do we have regional roots, but we have also gradually grown into a global group of 40 companies. Many of our employees have been with us for a very long time: some are already working for us in the second or third generation,” adds Kastl. Globally standardised technology management is guaranteed, no matter whether production is situated in Germany or Italy. Very important in this context is hubergroup India, which has been part of the group since 2006 and ensures backward integration. Cuny explains how this cooperation works: “We produce most of our raw materials in India ourselves, along with our own pigments – this means we cover the entire physical, chemical and process engineering value chain. That translates to a vast range of applications.”  In addition to pigments, the range of starting materials supplied to the Indian printing inks manufacturer includes pigment preparations, resins, prepolymers, waxes and fillers. “There are great opportunities to innovate and to develop our own products, and the potential is far from being fully tapped,” notes Cuny. Chemical and technical R&D offers numerous development opportunities for talented young people who have the right background.

What makes the printing ink manufacturer particularly attractive is the parallelism of science on one side and proximity to hands-on application on the other. The range of applications at the printing ink maker is so broad that it appeals not only to students of chemistry and materials science, chemical engineering or chemical process engineering, but also to future experts in technology and materials science, printing technology and design, and media technology.

University sponsors ensure mutual contact

One of the key tools deployed by hubergroup to target universities is its university sponsors: these are selected employees in central positions within the company who have made contact with their alma maters. They are the first point of contact for students and teaching staff. The company benefits by demonstrating its products, markets and production processes in lectures and presenting itself as an attractive employer. In return, students gain an exclusive insight into the chemical industry and an overview of internships, the scope for doing theses or even the option of a scholarship. Any later applications by this target group for job vacancies can then be assessed much more precisely if the applicant is already known and may even have already worked in the company. Students too are keen to make contact with industry as early as possible in their studies in order to identify potential employers. As an intern or while working on a final thesis, they gain a very accurate idea of the corporate culture and the opportunities that could arise. “It works for both sides,” believes Cuny. “The company receives valuable input from the latest research and teaching, and students and graduates receive sound support when embarking on their careers.”

University targeting is not a tool that delivers results immediately. Patience and care are essential. It is all about making contacts and building up a network, fostering trust, taking time and investing in people. Positive outcomes only start to emerge in the medium to long term, but ultimately everyone benefits.

What are the benefits of university targeting for small and medium-sized companies?

  • Raised awareness of your potential as an employer
  • Build up a positive employer image
  • Influence students’ career choices
  • More and better-suited unsolicited applications from university and college students
  • Competitive advantages in the “battle for talent”
  • Comparatively low-cost recruitment of highly qualified technical and management personnel

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