If you missed our Delivering Apprenticeships Conference or need a reminder, ISE CEO Stephen Isherwood offers five takeaways that you can apply to your apprenticeship strategy.
More than 100 employers, educators, supplier partners, and crucially, apprentices, came together in the City of London to spend a day focused on apprentices as part of ISE’s Delivering Apprenticeships Conference 2023.
The rewards for employers who build apprentice programmes are many. Improved business performance, increased talent within the organisation, greater diversity of people, to name just three.
But to be successful in apprenticeships, you need to get out into schools, build a comprehensive development programme, take care of the apprentices you hire and work hard to retain them.
Young talent does not grow and manage itself. Here are five takeaways from the conference that will help you build a high performing programme.
1. Take care of your apprentices and they will outperform their peers
It sounds an obvious thing to say, but those who get good development support and guidance through their apprentice programme and from their line managers are those that perform best. Not merely a nice thing to do, but an imperative to get the best out of an apprentice programme.
Design your programme to ensure your apprentices are happy and healthy, both in themselves and at work, to put them in the best position to perform well at their job. But don’t be afraid to chuck them in at the deep end. They respond to a challenge, this is how their confidence grows.
- Mani Randhawa, at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, focuses on mindset while line managers focus on the day job.
- Lorcan, apprentice manager at Irwin Mitchell, spends around six to seven hours a week on pastoral support for apprentices (and sometimes their managers).
- Those that get good development support and guidance are those that can take on more challenging work soon, was the message from Ofcom.
- Be sure cover the basics – Gen Health Minds stressed the importance of diet and sleep to apprentices.
- “These are young people and this is their first proper job”, said Patrick from Visionpath.
2. Go back to school
The message of the day from UCAS, BPP and many employers was clear: teachers and students still don’t understand apprenticeships. Data from UCAS showed that only 26% of students said they had enough information on apprenticeships and only 24% of teachers felt they knew enough about apprentice routes.
Just because the Baker Clause mandates schools to talk about vocational routes (a legal requirement) there is still a significant gap in the knowledge of parents, teachers and students. The employer voice needs to be heard in schools.
As well as information parity, employers can encourage parity of ambition. “Students need to hear what it’s like to live and breath an apprenticeship”, said Lesley from WTW.
Springpod’s panel of apprentices also had a message back to employers: understand the school calendar. One apprentice recalled how a recruiter only offered one assessment date option, the same date as one of her exams. As well as the exam period, it’s also best to avoid the run up to UCAS deadlines.
Read more about how students view alternatives to university
3. Recruiting a diverse cohort of apprentices is challenging
Despite a comprehensive attraction programme that targeted students from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds, all of one employer’s applications came from students with middle-class backgrounds. Many employes find it more challenging to recruit a diverse cohort of apprentices than graduates.
Schools outreach is a key strand to any comprehensive diversity strategy. Technology employers have a greater challenge than most. To achieve gender balance, the IT sector needs to attract 486,000 more female IT specialists. “We’ve all got to keep fighting for apprentices”, said Annette Allmark of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT.
The message from the apprentice panels was that if you are serious about hiring for diversity, get serious about the support you give. It is important to pay expenses for travel costs to an assessment centre. Also, think about your apprentices’ daily costs when starting work, e.g., travel and subsistence, what do you need to do to help?
4. In a competitive jobs market, don’t take retention for granted
Apprentices with quality training and solid work experience will be a target for your competitors. Skills shortages may be one of the reasons you started an apprentice programme in the first place.
Coach apprentices in career management strategies, develop a long-term employer value proposition, and have a plan to manage apprentices off the development programme and into their next role.
Remember though that overall retention for apprentices is strong. After five years, employers retain 64% of school and college leavers compared to 53% of graduate hires.
5. If you don’t hire apprentices, you won’t hire any Amys
For the unenlightened employer, the effort and investment required to deliver all of the above just isn’t worth it. But all the apprentices who came along to our Delivering Apprenticeships Conference 2023 were exceptional. Back in my days as a recruiter I’d have hired every single one of them.
One in particular stood out, Amy Marren. Not because she’s a paralympic medal winner, but because she had the confidence to pull out of a university course she felt wasn’t right for her and is now a successful legal apprentice.
So to those employers who still ignore apprentices, the message is simple, if you don’t hire apprentices you won’t hire people like Amy, your competitors will.
Read more insight and data on recruiting and developing apprentices