Harnessing student competitions as a recruitment strategy

talent acquisition, recruitment

Since COVID hit, there has been a whole lot more discussion in the media about “onshoring” or “reshoring.” Because businesses and consumers were shocked to experience the fragility of our supply chains, especially when dependent on overseas suppliers.

Particularly in manufacturing, we hope that governments and consumers are finally appreciating the true value of buying Australian. However, years of outsourcing and offshoring has meant that Australia does not have enough opportunity for young people.

So, how do you develop your human capital so crucial to business success?

Partnering with Australian suppliers

At Ms&Mr Kitchens, we realised back in 2018 that young designers did not know that we were recruiting for our wholly made in Australia kitchen manufacturing business. Vice versa, we did not know how to reach out to the best emerging talent. So, we decided to launch a kitchen design competition as a platform for talent, sponsors and us to engage with one another.

Aside from our own interest in hiring great talent, we wanted this competition to be a career launching pad for emerging designers; to give them a real-life design experience that they could proudly add to their portfolio. We wanted the process to be exactly what a professional designer would do to present a client proposal.

As we source all our materials from local suppliers, we approached our partners including Laminex, Caesarstone, Blum, Cosentino and E&S, who loved the idea. Together, we created a design brief, criteria, format and a diverse panel of judges for the competition.

And to support our competitors, we produced a range of resources such as webinars, videos and telephone hotline where they could seek clarification on technical details. Because design is not just about aesthetics, functionality and practicality to build is even more important.

Working with universities and TAFEs

We reached out to design educators around Australia to get the word out to their students, on top of using our own networks and social media, to launch our inaugural competition in 2019 which attracted more than 100 entries.

In 2020, COVID lockdowns threatened to cancel our competition, but we pushed ahead. This time, as we did not have the benefit of presenting to tertiary students in person, we developed more detailed online guidance materials including videos to help our young designers. As a result, we attracted 1000 enquiries and received better quality entries than in the previous year.

Building strong relationships

Our student competition has proved to be a win-win for everyone involved. Our 2020 winner has gone on to start her own design business; the runners-up are continuing with their studies with an added level of purpose and confidence; our partnership with our suppliers has never been stronger; we are working with design educators; and best of all, we are engaging with great Australian talent.

My top tips in running a competition

  1. Partner with your suppliers.
  2. Form a committee and work together at different levels.
  3. Create an amazing learning experience for participants.
  4. Engage with your participants using awesome support resources.
  5. Award great prizes that will jump start their career, for example, professional kits.