By Rebecca Fielding
Whether you are a graduate employer seeking to increase (nay double) your available candidate pool, or a university wanting to improve the number of your graduates entering highly skilled graduate employment post-graduation there seems to me to be one simple solution that no-one is really talking about. It's simply learning to drive.
A recent (January 2018) report commissioned by the Department for Transport, conducted by the University of Oxford and the University of the West of England, Young People’s Travel – What’s Changed and Why?, has demonstrated a significant and sustained decline in the number of young people learning to drive. So, what are the stats?
- DVLA licence figures from 2016 shows just 42% of young people (17-24) in Great Britain hold a driving licence.
- Between 2013 and 2016 the number of young people holding full driving licences fell by 5%, whilst the population for this age group decreased by 1%.
- In 1994, 48% of 17-20 year olds and 75% of 21-29 year olds held a driving licence.
- By 2014, just 29% of 17-20 year olds and 63% of 21-29 year olds held a driving licence.
- Other sources report a 20% decrease in under-25s learning to drive over the last ten years up to 2018, which comes from DVSA data obtained by motoring website, Honest John.
The research seems to indicate the reasons for this marked change are partly explained by differences in life circumstances. For example, the lower full-time employment rates of young people, stagnation on wage rates, increases in housing expenditure and a decline in disposable income, all making learning to drive less affordable alongside rising motoring and insurance costs. Surveys and interviews have shown that many young people simply accept not driving. It is unclear whether this reflects a generational change in attitudes towards driving - meaning it is no longer considered desirable to drive (due to ethical or environmental choices), or that other changes mean that driving is no longer essential at this stage in life e.g. improved public transport and the growth in city-based living.
But despite the increasing urbanisation of graduates and graduates jobs and increase in flexible working, there are still a vast number of highly skilled graduate jobs that require graduates to have a driving licence - either to be able to travel as part of the role (common in accountancy, management consultancy, transport, construction, retail and logistics sectors), on graduate schemes (where rotations to different parts of the UK and travel to different sites is common) or very simply to be able to get to the place of work (common in industrial, agricultural, utilities sectors that tend to have places of work out of cities and not well served by public transport). Smaller businesses (who employ over 30% of the U.K.s graduate population) can often be attracted to the cheaper rates offered by out of city locations.
So other than the 'encouraging words' I often read on blogs and advice pages from employers and careers services highlighting what an advantage driving offers to graduates in the job market; what can both employers and universities practically do to address this?
Universities could be offering a driving school on campus, especially as the costs of learning have been identified as a key barrier to most young people learning to drive. Imagine what a compelling offer this could be at open days, as part of your student offer on campus ''Come to ABC University and alongside your degree we'll help you get your driving licence too''. Employing a driving instructor or instructors might cost a University less than £60,000pa, but the additional revenues it could create in student recruitment would no doubt far out-strip this cost. This could also contribute to student satisfaction ratings in NSS and perhaps most critically have a very real impact on Graduate Outcomes by opening a whole raft of highly skilled graduate jobs to your students. But if employing driving instructors and creating space on campus for this is a no go, negotiated discounted rates with local firms or an exclusive on campus franchise could also work. Targeting and promoting any employability bursaries to be used towards driving lessons can also be a great way of engaging students from a widening participation background with accessing funding that might otherwise seem opaque or unclear.
From an employer perspective why not offer driving lessons as part of your development package in year one? As the owner of a consultancy business I am conscious that many of the graduates we recruit don't drive when they join us. However, if they do choose to stay and progress their career with us to become a Project Consultant, they will need to travel to our clients all over the U.K and beyond. So, I've started to offer to pay for driving lessons for any new employees during their first year with us. It makes sense to me as an employer for all kinds of reasons:
1) I'm investing in a key skill I need my employees to have.
2) It is a skill that may well benefit them throughout their career, building brand advocacy and goodwill well beyond their time with us. Driving is a meaningful life skill that matters to people in their lives as well as at work.
3) It's not a huge investment in terms of training and development (we sponsor Master’s courses in year 2 onwards so this is a minimal investment by comparison), but it has a very real ROI.
4) Graduates really like it, ‘get it’ and no-one else is offering it! It is helping me to attract good quality applicants through a real point of difference in my adverts and social.
Again, if paying for driving lessons directly is not an option (perhaps they need a driving licence from day one) could you consider having an intensive week-long driving course embedded as part of any pre-induction or on-boarding process? This would enable you to almost double your potential candidate pool, attract more candidates with this differentiated offer and select from the very best candidates for the role regardless of who already holds a licence or not. The business case must stack up in terms of candidate quality and retention for relatively minimal additional training spend.
Whether you are a graduate employer or university I'd encourage you to think more creatively about driving and driving licences. To my mind it is one very simple thing that we could all do something about that would enable us to achieve our objectives whilst also supporting students and graduates to achieve their full potential. And heck with the introduction of driver less cars may be this is going to be a less pressing issue in the future but for the next five years it looks set to be a key differentiator around graduate opportunity.
Let me know what you think in the comments below and as always if you'd like to chat about anything graduate, student, employability, early careers or talent related please do drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org I'm always happy to chat over a cuppa.