3 ways to attract and engage apprentices in 2022

May 26, 2022 | Apprentices & school leaver

What young people want from employers is changing. SMRS’ research provides insight on how to best attract and engage apprentices.

SMRS surveyed 2,000, 16 to 21-year-olds to find out how career and education decision-making has changed.

I recently shared some insights from this research at ISE’s Apprenticeship Conference, along with the following three recommendations to attract and engage apprentices.


1. Engage with students early to raise awareness

There continues to be a ‘bias’ for the well-trodden path into higher education, which influences the views of many young people about their next destination.

Our recent survey asked school students what they were intending to do next, and over three fifths were thinking about or had already applied to a university.

When we asked why they were pursuing higher education, a necessity for their desired career and to improve their employment prospects were the two leading reasons. However, while apprenticeships offer the opportunity to earn and learn, the proportion of students considering it as a viable alternative was still low. Just 11% said they were interested in apprenticeships.

Before interest comes awareness, and we found that just 65% of the school leaver audience we spoke to said they were aware of apprenticeships. An even smaller proportion (56%) was aware of degree apprenticeships and only a third was aware of T-levels.

Through engaging early, employers can help schools and colleges to tackle deep-rooted perceptions, while also helping students to keep their options open by improving the awareness and appeal of alternatives to university.

This also gives employers an opportunity to build long term partnerships with schools, which in turn, supports employer brand building with students, leading to the development of sustainable apprentice talent pipelines for the future.

Read the latest industry information on future employer engagement with schools and colleges


2. Nuance your proposition and communications

The priorities of young people have changed as a result of the complex mix of external impacts of the last two years. In fact, 43% of the students we spoke to told us their career priorities had changed in the last 12 months.

The world has changed and so have they. They have re-evaluated what is important, and their awareness and concern about issues such as racism, equality and mental health are affecting how they make decisions about their careers.

In fact, 37% of students with a high concern about money and financial hardship said this was influencing career and education choices. The same was true for those who were very concerned about issues of equality.

We saw this reflected in their answers about what was important to them in their future career, with work life balance being the top-ranking priority amongst the students we spoke to at the beginning of this year.

We also saw aspects such as a friendly and supportive work environment becoming increasingly important. More than a third (36%) said it was a top priority, placing it above career progression, which was equal in importance with being able to ‘fit in’ (32%).

It’s therefore important to consider what’s really important to attract and engage apprentices and what could be presenting barriers. It’s also about considering and communicating the whole proposition in your attraction strategy, not just the more obvious aspects – share how you’ll support their transition from education to work to connect on the issues that are important to them.


3. Ensure a targeted, multi-channel approach

All too often, due to the challenge of navigating the extensive school and college landscape, employers cast the net too wide.

We asked school leavers what the most influential sources of information were when they were thinking about career and education destinations and social media, particularly platforms such as YouTube, were stand out winners.

Peers also continue to be highly influential. Generation Z actively seek out authentic content and they want real insight from people who are like them. As a result, engaging content formats, particularly video, has a big impact.

Sharing video content from people within your organisation, which provides insight, and which guides and reassures through storytelling, is continuing to be a highly effective way to attract and engage apprentices.

And while social media influencers are helping more innovative employers reach untapped audiences, it’s important not to forget their biggest influencers of all – parents, teachers and friends.

In fact, among those who were already working or on apprenticeship programmes, 40% said their peers had been influential in that decision. We also saw that friends were more influential for those who are or would be the first generation to university.

By combining a strategic approach to school and college engagement with a targeted digital attraction campaign, which shares messages in an authentic and engaging way, you’ll be able to build brand awareness and appeal among your target audience, while nurturing an engaged pipeline of apprentice talent for your opportunities.

You can catch up with the SMRS research in the recording of ISE’s Apprenticeship Conference

Read more data and insight on how to attract and engage apprentices


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