How to attract Gen Y into engineering – a case study from MOL

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I am sitting in a presentation by Gabor Varjasi, Head of Competency Development and Strategic HR at MOL Group. This is at Stamford Global‘s Talent for Tomorrow conference in Vienna.

MOL have a similar problem to many companies around the world who need to attract young people (often called Generation Y) to join their companies, especially those that need to recruit young people with skills and qualifications in natural sciences. MOL is in the oil industry, and needs significant numbers of engineers and scientists.

They identified that there were not enough science students qualifying from universities in Hungary, their primary country, but also across the whole region they work in. This cannot be fixed with better recruitment strategies or poaching from competitors. So MOL decided to do something about the source, and get involved in high schools and universities. They wanted to promote sciences as a viable and exciting choice for young people.

They did this by engaging with teachers, parents and students. They created resources for schools to use in the teaching of science (called Junior Freshhh), and made this freely available to use.

They then created an online competition in the form of a simulation game aimed at university students. See Freshhh EDU (http://www.freshhh.net). 35 universities entered in 2007, growing to over 200 in 2011 (the 2012 version is ongoing), with over 600 different 3 member teams participating in 2011. The competition is based on real oil and gas industry issues, and can be used as teaching tools by the universities. It is fully integrated with social media, and uses high quality videos throughout. Those videos and the game scenarios become available to educators after each year’s competition is over.

Is this just fun?

No! Over the lifetime of this graduate game, MOL has employed more than 900 of the participants in the game from 2007-2011, and these students have a 90% retention rate in the business (it’s worth reading that sentence again! MOL have won awards for recruitment and retention because of this!). Some of the people (close to 5%) who were employed in 2008 are already in managerial positions.

This is gaining momentum, with 200% growth per year for 2010 and 2011, and this expected to increase further. They have saved over € 500,000 in recruiting costs. And the cost of game has been € 65,000 so far. An unbelievable ROI.

The big lesson though is that it took four years to see any value from the investment. And it will take the rest of this decade to discover whether the long term objective of getting young people into engineering will bear fruit. At this stage, all the signs are good. MOL’s Facebook page has huge activity, and parents, teachers and young people are all actively engaged.

This is the type of long term thinking more companies need to engage in.

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