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Virtual assessment centres boost diversity at Thames Water 

Friday 11th December 2020 11:37

Eight Thames Water graduates dressed in orange PPE stand around a water tank

Thames Water's 2020 graduate intake visit Hampton water treatment works

New virtual assessment centres have helped boost the number of female and BAME graduates joining Thames Water’s 2020 recruitment programme. 

Working with GTI Recruiting Solutions, Thames Water adapted to the challenges presented by the coronavirus lockdown by creating tailored virtual assessment centres so graduate applicants could still carry out interviews and groups exercises from home. 

Out of 1,261 applications, 24 graduates where chosen to start placements within Thames Water’s operations, science, engineering and finance divisions. 

Sixteen of the new graduate employees identify as female while nine members (38 per cent) of the new cohort are from BAME backgrounds. In 2019, Thames Water hired 25 graduates, with 13 female and four from BAME backgrounds. 

More than half of the 2020 graduate hires are also the first generation in their families to go to university. 

Harris Hafeez, finance graduate trainee, said: “When I attended other graduate assessment centres, I would have to get up early or pack my bags to travel to where they were being held. With Thames Water’s virtual assessment centre, I took part in a face-to-face interview and group exercise on Microsoft Teams, all in the comfort of my own bedroom.

“I love working at Thames Water. Starting a new job during a pandemic and not working in the office can be complicated but my team has set up regular catch-ups and I have found everyone to be extremely helpful and friendly.”

Chloe Beaton, operations graduate trainee, added: “A virtual assessment centre was very different for me, as previously I had done them all face-to-face. The process was organised and structured, but also understanding of the current pandemic and made me feel comfortable throughout the whole process. Since the virtual assessment I have joined Thames and I couldn’t be happier. I can’t describe how welcoming Thames is!”

Thames Water invited 82 candidates to attend virtual assessment centres. These replaced the water and waste company’s in-person assessment centre at the Madejski Stadium in Reading, which could not take place due to coronavirus restrictions. 

In each virtual session on MS Teams, 12 candidates participated in group exercises, interviews and solo presentations which replaced the practical assignments that would have normally taken place.  

Candidates described taking part in the virtual assessment centres as a positive experience while GTI Recruiting Solutions observed that fewer numbers encouraged the more introverted candidates to actively contribute to the group tasks. 

Michelle Bury, talent development consultant at Thames Water, said: “We recognise having a diverse and engaged workforce benefits our customers, communities and business. The ongoing pandemic means it’s a tough situation for young people entering the jobs market and we’re pleased we could continue our graduate recruitment process and share the great career opportunities Thames Water has to offer. By being flexible and adapting to online technology, we’ve attracted new and diverse talent to our company, and I look forward to seeing this year’s intake make their mark at Thames Water.”

The 2020 Thames Water graduate intake started on October 3. Thames Water plans to use virtual assessment centres for its 2021 round of graduate and apprenticeship recruitment which starts in January. 

A recent survey by the Institute of Student Employers found that the number of graduate jobs available declined by 12 per cent due to the pandemic with many employers expecting a further decline next year.

Find out more about Thames Water’s graduate and apprenticeship programmes.