Arthur Anderson’s Anderson Consulting goes for the cream – but does it really get it? Under the slogan going for the cream on the milkround Andersen Consulting claims to have had a record recruiting year in the UK, beating its own graduate recruitment target of 175 by 18 recruits. The selective procedures through which Andersen gains its recruits, however, lead to two queries: is the company really getting the cream? And if it is, how will its policies measure up to the looming skills shortage of the 1990s? Andersen itself seems quite complacent that it does attract an elite coterie of graduates and that it will continue to do so without changing its present attitudes to recruitment. The company mainly accepts recruits form well established universities, such as Oxford, Cambridge, London, Durham, Bristol and so on, with a rather large annual intake from Imperial College, London. It takes on graduates from any discipline, claiming that personality counts for more than either academic success or computing expertise. Selection is by interview only and graduates are not presented with any tests. When a graduate joins the company training begins with four weeks in London, followed by three weeks in the firm’s centre for Professional Education at St Charles just outside Chicago. Once basic computer and business skills have been instilled in raw graduates, they return to this structured training between bouts of supervised practical experience. While St Charles is the main training centre, other training establishments exist in Segovia, Spain, Eindhoven, Holland, Geneva, Switzerland, and Manila in the Philippines. All teaching is carried out by working consultants as Andersen chooses not to employ professional lecturers on the grounds that ongoing business experience speaks louder than academic platitudes. It costs the company UKP35,000 to train each consultant in his or her first few years, and Andersen claims to spend 10% of its revenue on training, reporting an overall drop-out rate of approximately 10%. New recruits start on a basic salary of UKP15,000, and at 26, after say five years, they can reasonably expect to be project managers, earning UKP32,000; while high fliers could be on a six figure salary as a partner by their mid-thirties. This may add up to a recruiting package geared to attract Britain’s finest, and, indeed, Andersen has few regrets about the recruits it gets. It does, however, have a niggling twinge of conscience that only a fifth of its recruits are women. The problem is not that this a peculiarly low figure for such companies, which it is not, but that women are not coming forward in numbers representative of their presence at graduate level in universities. In fact, the careers guidance pack that Andersen sends out to university careers offices veers towards positive discrimination in its presentation of female consultants at all levels in the firm. Furthermore, the 10 minute recruitment video Working Day features a woman, and female interviewees meet role model female managers, so that the company would appear to be doing its best to attract women. Except, perhaps, that it probably recruits fewer people from the arts and humanities than it likes to say it does. For example, current graduate vacancies all require degrees in computer sciences, computer engineering, mathematics, or physics – these are all areas notorious for low female take-up. Yet Liz Hopkins, Recruitment Manager with Andersen, admitted that once recruited, arts graduates soon caught up with science graduates, and were easier to mould into Andersen management consultants. In the face of the dangerously widening skills gap, this provokes the thought that it might pay Andersen, and similar companies, to address seriously the problem of presenting a palatable corporate image to arts and humanities students. From another perspective, if such firms really do require computer-literate graduates then they should put aside their old boy and old girl mentality and tap into the pool of practically-trained technical graduates from po
lytechnics. Older graduates Another relatively unexplored avenue concerns the recruitment of older graduates wishing to make a career change. At present Andersen sees this option in terms of a cultural cul-de-sac, saying that older people resent being managed by someone who is a good deal younger than they are. Arguably, such problems could be met with management skills sympathetically revised to meet the needs of older recruits. After all, surely it is not actually who gives the orders that is important, but how they are given. In conclusion, since as yet, Andersen is not successfully recruiting from all these potentially rich graduate sources, just what does its phrase going for the cream of the milkround actually mean? Permanent Recruitment Fair, backed by database, opens in London SE The growing skills shortage in the computer industry has lead to the launch of the first Permanent Recruitment Fair at Duke House, Tabard Street, London SE1, by Information Technology consultants Ellis and Lewis. Intended as a means to bring together skilled job-hunters and prospective employers, the Fair operates rather like a skill swap shop. Anyone looking for a new job, or a change of company is invited to register with the Fair, to discuss their individual requirements with Ellis & Lewis staff and to feed these details into the Fair’s database. This runs on a Unix box, manufactured to the specific requirements of Ellis and Lewis, but based on a NS32000 processor. Currently running at 4MIPS, with 28 Wyse VDU terminals, the Fair hopes to upgrade the system in the near future to 10 MIPS and up to 200 terminals. Specific information about each client can be drawn from the database by Ellis and Lewis and matched up to the particular job specifications of the exhibiting companies. Demand is so great that Ellis & Lewis has restricted the number of companies who may exhibit at the Fair at any one time to 20. Electronic Data Systems, ICL, Computer Management Group, and PA Computers and Telecommunications have stands already, with British Telecom to follow shortly. With four weeks standing as the minimum booking time for an exhibition, and six months the maximum, the Fair is not intended to be monopolised by major companies. In particular, not more than two software houses may exhibit for extended periods of six months. The cost of exhibiting for one month is UKP800, which translates as an average placement fee of UKP1,600 at the top of the scale. Two other main points from the launch: the fair is not aimed specifically at graduates – most companies are more interested in people with good basic skills, and a positive attitude to work – and fewer women are applying for jobs in the industry than in the past. Companies who exhibit are hoping that the Fair will help to resolve issues like this.