Education staffing firms face unfair fees crackdown

The role of the recruiter in placing teachers into schools has always been a contentious one and the recent news regarding the government’s crackdown on ‘excessive’ fees being charged has only added to this.

So often criticised and never really appreciated, recruiters who work in the education sector are expected to work to a different business model, resulting in lower profitability than other agencies, who it could be said have a much easier job.

Like any other business recruiting firms placing teachers have to charge fees for the work that they do. The fees under scrutiny are the same fees that are charged across other sectors, without discussion. However, because it is the education sector and ultimately it comes out of a school’s overall budget, it is the agency that is expected to make the sacrifice when their fees are considered ‘excessive’. Recruiters in the healthcare sector have also seen a similar crackdown and again are expected to make less profit than other industry recruiters simply because of the sector they recruit for.

The honest truth is that it’s wrong and incorrect to blame the recruitment agencies or to expect them to keep their costs the same whilst their revenue and margins are significantly reduced. The problem lies with the fact there are not enough teachers to meet the demands and the skills shortage is only going to get worse as the DfE has missed its targets for filling teacher training places over the last 4 years.

In addition to the shortage of new teachers coming through, experienced staff are leaving prematurely as teacher retention statistics from the DfE show that 26% of teachers who started in 2013 were not in post three years later, the lowest figures since records began in 1996.

Schools cannot be expected to act as recruiters for their own vacancies, as they do not have the skills or time to do so and the statistics back this up with figures1 showing that schools only filled half their vacancies with teachers with the experience and expertise required and in around a tenth of cases, schools did not fill the vacancy at all.

The most frustrating thing for education recruiters is the lack of understanding over the complexity and pressures of recruiting teachers in a challenging market and very often at short notice.

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Indeed, a recent survey conducted by Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), the professional body for UK recruitment agencies, found that the majority of recruitment firms, a whopping 98%, typically only receive less than two hours’ notice from a school in need of a teacher that same day. Remarkably, despite the very short notice, 74% of recruiters could supply a teacher at least 90% of the time.

Education recruiters provide a service that schools so desperately need and 77% of agencies confirmed in the REC survey that finding teachers quickly is the main reason schools use them and this service can only be offered because 92% of recruitment consultants are dedicated to getting into the office between 6 am and 8 am.

Unfortunately, it appears that the government will continue to put pressure on the agencies and the crackdown will require them to rethink their business strategy as margins are squeezed.

So, what can education recruiters do to survive and thrive through this challenge?

They need support to help them keep their costs low, fill more orders, improve efficiency and increase productivity and ultimately grow their business. Although clearly the changes are going to have an impact on their business, they need to react thoughtfully and create a more low cost and efficient business model ASAP. The healthcare recruitment industry in the UK went through a similar change 2 years ago in the form of rate caps making it imperative for them to embrace a low cost working model. A partnership with an Offshore Recruitment Services provider was their ideal choice. Similarly, for the education recruiters the fees crackdown can be tackled with the help of an Offshore Recruitment Services (ORS) provider who will work alongside their own team.

Working alongside the right ORS partner will offer speed and flexibility and allow the education recruitment agency to grow their business at a pace that suits them, while allowing them to supply high quality trained and fully vetted teachers, 24/7 to their clients. This will also allow the recruitment agencies to keep their costs low and broader profit margins as they can offload the infrastructure, training, security and management costs to their offshore partner and can access highly skilled and experienced offshore recruiters.

An ORS partner will be an extension of your business; they bring you and your ideal candidate together and provide your business with a dedicated, agile resource combined with the latest in hiring technology and strategies.

Above all else, partnering with the right ORS partner solves so many challenges and gives an education recruitment agency access to a team of highly experienced recruitment experts who have in-depth and current insight into best practice, market data, the latest innovations and thought leadership across the education sector and the wider recruitment business landscape.

At IMS People we believe we are the ORS partner who can help education recruiters meet this challenge. By working with us it allows them to leverage our market expertise, ensuring their business maintains a competitive advantage and stays ahead of the game through utilising the many services we offer including market mapping, compliance, CV sourcing, full admin support and job posting.

Our education clients benefit from our 750 employees and their years of education staffing expertise and who share their dedication to excellence. Our ORS teams operate for them 24/7 to deliver an exceptional service for their business and offer new ideas and help to generate short-term and long-term solutions of the highest quality, to meet the ongoing challenges they face.

1 Teacher recruitment and retention in England, House of Commons Library (January 2018)

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