Vocational (Career) Branding As A Recruitment Tool
By Sara Mackey, Marketing Communications Specialist
Statewide Marketing Consortium of the Wisconsin Technical College System
The world of HR is by necessity as dynamic as just about any. It seems the concerns about employee recruitment and retention, compliance, legal issues, safety, diversity and inclusion are constantly changing in the global workforce and in home-grown businesses as well. Recent existential factors like the economic downturn, student debt, social unrest and the pandemic compounded recruitment and retention issues, making the recent past a particularly confounding period of unsteadiness.
In trying new tactics to help counter today’s hiring challenges, some employers are investing in ‘vocational branding,’ wherein the employer might invest in promotional tactics for certain careers versus for themselves as a potential employer. This activity also provides a unique opportunity for partnership between employers and educational institutions, associations, organizations and industries to work together to promote the vocations.
Many educational programs with a more focused approach to education (such as a trade versus a liberal arts education) are available through a technical, trade or community college. These organizations have long embraced vocational branding as a function of recruiting students. The concepts of career clusters and career pathways are increasingly discussed even in middle school and high school to help students consider a range of possible careers that might mesh well with their lifestyle preferences or a future vision of a career.
Wisconsin Technical College System’s recruitment efforts are famously intertwined through successful partnerships with local employers. As employers discuss their employment needs, the technical colleges can determine how to make the programs more relevant. This demand in certain industries creates a natural opportunity for collaboration. The technical colleges also engage with vocational organizations like DECA (a business education organization), FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America), HOSA (Health Occupations Students of America), FFA (Future Farmers of America), Skills USA (an education organization working for a skilled workforce), and other career and technical student organizations which are industry-specific and have a mission of promoting certain careers to students as early as middle school, high school and also postsecondary students.
Most industries have struggled to recruit and retain employees (for a variety of reasons) but some have had more visible challenges, including health care, advanced manufacturing, construction trades, transportation, logistics, criminal justice and first responders. Note that many of these careers are also well-served by the focused, practical education the 16 colleges in the Wisconsin Technical College System provide.
The industry-supporting ways that employers could get involved in promoting vocational branding could be through sponsorship of activities and competitions the career and technical student organizations might hold annually. Employers could also participate in job fairs and co-operative advertising. Perhaps they invite students in for job shadowing or informational interviews, to get to know the types of positions and generate interest.
Most likely the most important, most tangible benefit to employers in vocational branding is the efficiency created by bringing more people into a career field. When they have less recruiting to do, they reduce the cost to fill those vacancies. Other benefits might be the natural connections drawn between the employer, educational institutions and associations related to those careers. All of these lead to additional visibility and creation of good will between the community and the employers.