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Approaches to employer liaison

In this section, we will cover five contrasting approaches to employer liaison work. You are invited to read these before moving to the commentary.

Hoppock (1963)
This extract was published in the UK in Theory and Practice of Vocational Guidance edited by Hopson and Hayes (1968) an important early text in the UK career guidance field. I would like you to pay particular attention to Hoppock’s thoughts on impartiality and working with recruiters.

Maguire (2005)
Maguire reported on the implementation of the previous Harris Review. It is a wide-ranging report touching on all areas of career service activity. In terms of this module, the most important material is contained in an extract covering sections 5.1 to 5.24 sub-titled ‘Collaboration with Employers’ (pp.53-59).

Helliker (2006)
The AGCAS Employer Liaison Specialist Group (ELSG) has produced a set of guidelines for dealing with recruitment agencies.

NUS, AGR and AGCAS (2007)
This guide describes the responsibilities of three parties involved in recruitment activities: employers, students and career services.

QAAHE Quality Code for Higher Education (2013)
The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education once again revised the code of practice for careers work in higher education in 2013. The reading pack was updated on 9/10/13 but for ease of use and those who received it prior to this date a link to the revised document is provided above.


Hoppock (1963)One of the first aspects that struck me is the American feel of the writing. Hoppock refers to ‘counselors’, a term that has wider currency in the USA. He also refers to the ‘pursuit of happiness’ in the closing sentence: an echo of the American constitution. The text feels a little dated as there is use of what now would now be considered sexist language. There is now a much wider range of staff working with employers than purely counselling staff. These relatively superficial aspects aside, it is also worth considering the theoretical stance demonstrated here. I hope you picked up on the words ‘trust’ and ‘needs and values of his client’. This can be related to the client-centred approach of Carl Rogers. Significantly, this extract also contains one of the strongest defences of impartiality that can be found in the careers work literature.

Reflection questions

  • Do you support Hoppock’s defence of impartiality?
  • Why do you think this?
  • The second paragraph suggests a strong educational aspect to employer work. This educational role has obvious resonance for staff working in higher education institutions.
  • To what extent, do you see your role as an educational one?
  • If so, which group(s) are you educating: students, employers, and/or university staff?


Maguire (2005)It is argued that career services should have more influence over higher education institutions. There are interesting examples of employer liaison provided via a Student Employment Team and Employer Services Unit. The report also picks up on the debate between ‘fragmentation’ and ‘funnelling’. It is thought that employer liaison is fragmented across HEIs with no central one stop shop, however it is also suggested that it may not be desirable or possible to ‘funnel’ all activity via the careers service. The importance of entitlement statements for employers is highlighted.

Reflection questions

  • Do you think that career services should have more control over HEIs with regard to academic policy, degree course content or approval/suggestion of new degree areas?
  • What are the pros and cons of a fragmented or funnelled approach to institutional employer liaison?


NUS, AGR and AGCAS (2007)It is interesting that the best practice guide places a responsibility on the student to undertake research into career ideas. This again emphasizes the educational nature of careers work. It suggests that the role of career services is to help facilitate that research work, but not necessarily to carry out that research on behalf of the student. Employers are recommended to comply with equal opportunities legislation and best practice in this area. Since the legislation is already a statutory requirement, this may appear unnecessary; alternatively, it may serve to remind some employers of the legislation. The meaning of ‘best practice’ is not specified but it could refer to further AGR or AGCAS guidelines on equal opportunity policies, or other material produced by public bodies. There is also a recommendation to inform career services of employer contacts with other areas in the HEI. This reflects the interest of some services in taking a strategic view of all employer liaison within the institution. The cooperation of employers in not compromising the impartiality of career services is also highlighted. Career services are recommended to make high quality career information available and clarify services to employers. There is an expectation that services will facilitate the recruitment programmes of employers. This is quite a wide ranging recommendation and could be interpreted in many different ways. This again highlights the important of a statement of service. There is also a strong emphasis on objectivity, neutrality and impartiality, and the ability of services to challenge employers and use discretion with unsolicited material. There are seven recommendations relating to the role of recruitment agencies. For example, there is reference to avoiding unfair discrimination, advertising genuine vacancies and linking graduate with ‘appropriate jobs’.

Reflection questions

  • Who or what is not represented by the three bodies in the agreement?
  • Where are the likely areas of controversy or disagreement?

Helliker (2006)Dealing with recruitment agencies presents a number of opportunities and challenges. The AGCAS Employer Liaison Specialist Group has produced a set of guidelines in response.

Reflection question

  • What is your assessment of the ELSG guidelines on dealing with recruitment agencies in terms of your own service practice?

QAAHE (2013)The extract provided is one element within a wider code that covers the range of HE activities. The code was written by the QAAHE in conjunction with a working group of representatives from across HE and contains brief statements on: working with employers (p.8); student-centredness and impartiality (p.9 & p.15); mentoring schemes (p.13); strategies to promote employability (p.15); gaining intelligence about the local, regional, national and international graduate labour market (p.15); making strong and current links with providers of employment opportunities (p.15) and facilitating inclusive interaction with employers (p.16). It is interesting that the code refers to students who may be disadvantaged (pp.8-9). This marks some official recognition of those labour market perspectives that foreground the classed, disablist, racialised or gendered aspects of labour market. It is worth looking at the work of the AGCAS and HECSU in relation to this area: for example, AGCAS Disabilities Task Group (2010), AGCAS (2009) and Morey et al. (2003) in the wider reading list.

Reflection questions

  • Consider the extent to which your service caters for the needs of disadvantaged students. What services are provided, and how could services be improved in the future?
  • In the wider reading list, Mignot (2001) argues that there is a tension between impartiality and what he identifies as the racialised, classed and gendered nature of the labour market. To what extent do you agree with this position?
  • In the Code, there is endorsement of close collaboration between CEIG services and employers. There is also an emphasis on an intelligence-led approach to CEIG provision. It is argued that CEIG provision should be informed by labour market intelligence (p.15) and data sources (p.6). This underlines the complex nature of HE careers work with each institution needing to measure labour market needs and finely calibrate the position of their students within multiple labour markets. How well-calibrated is your employer liaison work i.e. is it informed by detailed labour market intelligence?
  • How could this be extended beyond the 6 month DLHE survey to include, for example, longitudinal and qualitative perspectives?