Personnel Today Awards 2020: Graduate Scheme shortlist

Civil Service Fast Stream and Early Talent accept their Graduate Scheme of the Year trophy at the 2019 Awards.

As we prepare to celebrate the Personnel Today Awards on 26 November, it’s time to begin showcasing those organisations that made the shortlists for each category. Here we profile the organisations that are up for the Graduate Scheme of the Year accolade.

Energus – nucleargraduates

Faced with an ageing workforce and requiring between 40,000 to 60,000 full-time posts by 2030, the nuclear power industry is in need of a strong graduate pipeline.

The nucleargraduates scheme uses strength-based questions to assess candidate potential, rather than previous experience, which helps attract a diverse group. No two graduates have the same programme and their ‘journey’ does not follow a pre-determined route.

Personnel Today Awards 2020

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Graduates undertake three secondments across the customer group, nuclear estate and supply chain; the first with a sponsor to help them understand the organisation, job and local area, and two secondments shaped jointly by the graduate and a technical mentor.

This year a virtual ‘training zone’ week took place via Zoom at the height of the lockdown, to allow graduates to continue with their development when not physically in the workplace, and each has a robust learning needs development plan.

Corporate social responsibility aspects are at the heart of the programme, with each graduate encouraged to leave a positive ‘footprint’. The ‘footprints’ span four areas: becoming a STEM ambassador to school pupils, developing a sense of influence by taking part in a ministerial debate in Parliament, completing a commercial challenge with any profit donated to charity, and understanding and ‘giving something back’ to the international community.

The programme has a 98% completion rate and currently has 46% female participation. In October, 50 graduates will be recruited onto the scheme.

Fish Financial

Wealth management firm Fish Financial operates a graduate recruitment day, followed by a structured mentoring and training programme in order to develop new financial advisory talent in-house.

The graduate recruitment day sees candidates participate in a range of tasks to assess their economics, mathematical, communication, listening, presentation and interpersonal skills, based on real life scenarios.

For those who make it onto the programme, the company pays for their books and exam fees and supports their daily development by providing mentors at all levels of seniority, including shadowing the managing director. Graduates accompany staff to client meetings from an early stage to give them real-world experience of working in the industry.

The company also helps support graduates with more practical circumstances, including assisting a graduate from moving from Aberdeen to Surrey.

One hundred per cent of graduates who have been offered a job at Fish Financial have accepted, and it has a 100% retention rate for trainee financial managers who have participated in the scheme.

Managing director Ian Colley said:  “We want to create an environment where people can progress as quickly and as far as they want to, and where they will stick with us, so that we can continue to offer the highest levels of service for our clients.”


MBDA UK develops missiles and missile systems for the armed forces and employs more than 3,700 people. It has an order book of €6bn to deliver, but is faced with many highly experienced employees leaving the business within the next five to 10 years due to retirement.

In order to develop a strong talent pipeline and fill anticipated skills gaps, it runs a graduate programme which it estimates saves the company more than £175,000 per year in external hiring costs.

Engineering, operations and business graduates are recruited into two or three-year programmes that combine work placements with technical and professional on-the-job training. The scheme is designed to develop capable engineers and business professionals, but also to develop confidence, influencing, presenting, communication and project management skills.

Graduates attend a two-day early careers induction programme to smooth the transition from education into the workplace. The content focuses on building confidence, considering how they present themselves, an awareness of generational differences and how to work with people with a variety of experiences and backgrounds.

Much of the programme has taken place virtually this year, including a week-long development programme. It recently introduced a resilience workshop to help graduates cope with challenges inside and outside of the workplace, which has received “outstanding” feedback.

The company has a 64% retention rate for its current and ex-graduates over the past 15 years, and many have progressed into management roles.

Further qualifications for graduates have also been planned including management and leadership apprenticeships and Masters level schemes for those who join with a Bachelors degree.

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