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Apprenticeships – are employers maximising their opportunities?

With youth unemployment still worryingly high, encouraging the recruitment of young people is at the top of the political agenda. For employers, a constant stream of young talent brings fresh life and ideas, whilst also providing opportunities for growth. 

Graduate recruitment used to be the de facto option for feeding the talent pipeline but with the number of apprenticeships rising to more than 510,000 in 2012/13, these are fast becoming a real alternative for identifying and developing bright young minds. Apprenticeships provide a clear path to employment for young people and can be a valuable way to recruit young blood into the business, no matter what that business is. In recent years apprenticeships have evolved into more formalised career entry programmes; not limited to blue collar jobs. While a number of careers, such as medicine, do still require a professional university degree, there are now more than 250 different types of apprenticeship available, across over 1,400 job roles. Apprenticeship opportunities range from accountancy to textiles, engineering to veterinary nursing, and business administration to construction. At RateMyApprenticeship we work with well-known top graduate employers such as EY, PwC and Jaguar Land Rover to name just a few.

Feeding the talent pipeline

Our figures show that employers really are sitting up and taking notice of the benefits that apprenticeships and school leaver programmes can bring. Our Top 30 Apprentice and School Leaver Employers currently have a total intake of 7,754 young people in their programmes. And, within this Top 30 – which includes companies such as Accenture, Barclays, IBM and Virgin Media – the average retention rate currently sits at 91 per cent, showing that programmes are filling talent pipelines with those genuinely committed to a career in their company and sector.

Thinking of setting up an apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships are not a one-size-fits-all solution; however it is important that they equip school leavers with the skills required for entry-level careers as well as the workplace in general. There are a variety of criteria for businesses to consider when implementing apprenticeship schemes, plus Government guidelines on how they should be run; so make sure you do your research. Organised, well established programmes score highly in our student reviews, whereas school leavers on the newer programmes often refer to themselves as ‘guinea pigs’. By putting the foundations in place at the outset, businesses can ensure that they provide the right training for school leavers to prepare them adequately for future employment.

Apprenticeship schemes should continuously evolve alongside changes in legislation and the needs of students. Businesses should, therefore, implement processes which assess their schemes from the perspective of the young people joining that company on an apprenticeship. Using resources such as can be valuable in evaluating students’ feedback as well as how they are rated against other available programmes. When it comes to attracting the best candidates, one effective strategy is to link with local schools, building relationships at a young age and giving students an introduction to the professional environments in which they would work. Taking these steps as a business can be mutually beneficial, helping young people into career-entry jobs, whilst finding the young talent that employers crave.

Developing soft skills

Schools and universities are regularly criticised for not equipping students effectively for the workplace, however some employers should consider sharing the load, rather than expecting young people to come ‘work ready’.

With soft skills becoming increasingly important for recruiters when looking to employ school leavers, many are taking this upon themselves and incorporating soft skills training into apprenticeship programmes.  For instance, Capgemini provides an initial 16 weeks of training for all its apprentices in soft skills such as time management and networking. This ensures they have the right tools to be successful and know what is expected of them at the outset of the scheme.

Progress is certainly being made, with the latest figures showing that businesses are increasingly placing their faith in apprenticeship and school leaver schemes to recruit young talent. But, there is undoubtedly scope for more growth. By continuing to increase the number of opportunities on offer while further evolving the training provided, we can more effectively nurture the skills that both young people and businesses require. 

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