Michael Kelly outstanding student award – advanced level

Keith Houston, Allstate


Northern Ireland’s largest IT company, Allstate Northern Ireland (NI) was founded in 1998 to provide software development services and business solutions in support of its parent company, The Allstate Corporation, an American insurer. It now has offices in Belfast, Londonderry and Strabane and has grown to 2,200 employees.

But Keith Hudson, graduate recruitment consultant and on-campus liaison of the NI branch, identified a worrying gap which could, if ignored, jeopardise its future.

The backbone of Allstate NI was next generation IT talent, ensuring it thrived in a competitive and rapidly changing technological landscape. But there was a disconnect between Allstate and its potential graduate recruits.

Rather than cultivating new talent and developing relationships, Allstate had been taking a conventional approach to recruitment. Houston questioned how potential employees would know whether they were a good fit for the company if they hadn’t ever come into contact with it or its opportunities.

His answer was Insights, which took the form of a week-long voluntary programme designed for first year undergraduates. It exposed students to company culture and different business areas of Allstate, as well as helping them develop the skills needed for job applications. They had the opportunity to shadow programming teams, design apps and attend an assessment centre followed by an interview. Students received immediate feedback on their performance.

Instead of being strangers to the company, potential recruits were able to discover Allstate – its culture, its employees and its mission – ahead of potential opportunities. Participants were assessed throughout and the top performers were invited for a 12-week internship at the end of their first year of study. Eighty per cent of them went on to undertake a one-year placement at the end of their second year. High performance during this year secured them a graduate position.

This creative recruitment overhaul has paid huge dividends for Allstate. Its brand is now well represented early on in academic life and relationships have been forged with universities across the country. Recruitment costs have been slashed and the company now has more than 200 student technologists whose progress is being tracked.

And the programme just keeps growing. The group’s parent company was so impressed by the scheme and the calibre of recruits that placements in Chicago are now also available. Additional funding has also allowed for 75 per cent more internships for 2018, offering students richer opportunities than ever before.  


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