How are employers recruiting school and college leavers?

Nov 30, 2022 | Apprentices & school leaver

As ISE’s Delivering Apprenticeships Conference 2023 opens for registrations we take a look at our latest data on recruiting school and college leavers.

With apprenticeships now at the heart of the government’s post-16 education and skills strategy, our Delivering Apprenticeships Conference 2023 taking place in January, will provide support to those new to recruiting apprentices into the workplace as well as more seasoned recruiters who want to better support and develop their apprentices to ensure a solid pipeline of talent to grow their businesses.

There’s no doubt that school and college leavers are now an important part of the early talent landscape. Most respondents to ISE’s Student Recruitment Survey 2022 (68%) are recruiting school and college leavers and other non-graduate entry level hires alongside their graduate hires, this is 5% increase compared to 2021.

This reflects an increased focus to build a strong talent pipeline from school and college level hires, to apprentices, to placements and interns which feeds into graduate level hiring. Adopting this strategy enables recruitment teams to build talent pools large enough to fill a range of different roles.

Growth in the school and college leaver market

To understand the growth in the school and college leaver market, we analysed data from organisations that could provide the number of school and college leavers that they hired in both 2020/2021 and 2021/2022.

This data suggests that recruitment figures have grown by an average of 18% in the last year. Respondents recruited 5,011 school and college leavers during 2021/2022, up from the 4,223 hires in 2020/2021 reported by this year’s sample. Across all sectors, employers filled 89% of their school and college leaver vacancies.

Next year respondents indicated they are planning to hire 6,293 school and college leavers, an increase of 28%.

This highlights sustained growth in this type of student recruitment. As we noted last year, we did not observe a drop in school and college leaver hiring during the pandemic, and the market is continuing to grow.

Application numbers are an important indicator of labour market health and trends. We asked employers both how many applications they received this year, and how many people they hired.

In total, respondents received 91,797 applications for non-graduate entry-level positions during 2021/2022 – a 3.5% increase from those reported for 2020/2021. This worked out to be 19 applications per vacancy in 2022, a slight decrease from 21 applications per vacancy in 2021. This is considerably lower than for graduates, but still demonstrates a competitive market for these roles.

Application and hiring numbers as well as how easy employers are able to fill roles varied by sector and there is a breakdown available in the Student Recruitment Survey 2022.

Roles in London increasing

In the post-pandemic recovery phase, it is important to understand how non-graduate entry level hires are distributed throughout the UK.

Reversing the trend from last year, there was an increase in the proportion of school and college leaver roles based in London, from 33% in 2019/2020 to 24% in 2020/2021, and back to 28% in 2022.

Other regions also had increased levels of recruitment, such as the South East (+3%), West Midlands (3%), North East (+3%), and the East of England (+1%). However, there was a significant reduction in vacancies in Scotland this year (-6%), and in the South West (-4%).

Broad range of roles

As with graduates, school and college leavers were recruited to many different types of roles. General business and administration and engineering were the most common roles that employers were recruiting to.

Less than a third (30%) of respondents that recruit school and college leavers reported that they found at least one role difficult to recruit to, a slightly lower proportion than with graduates.

The roles that were the hardest to recruit for were IT (19%), Engineering (16%), Accountancy and audit (9%) and General Business Administration (7%).

The sectors that appeared to struggle the most were the Energy, Engineering & Industry sector, the Legal Sector, and Retail & FMCG sector.

Satisfaction falling

Employers seem relatively happy with the quality of school and college leavers that they are able to recruit, however significantly less than in 2021.

Last year 46% reported that they are ‘almost always’ able to recruit the quality of school and college leavers they need, whereas in 2022 only 20% of organisations report being ‘almost always’ able to recruit the quality of school and college leavers that they need to. This is a significant drop. A further 55% report being often able to recruit the quality of school and college leavers that they need.

Vital role of apprenticeships

The majority (88%) of organisations recruiting school and college leavers reported enrolling them onto apprenticeships. An average (mean) organisation enrolled 92.5% of their intake onto an apprenticeship.

The most common levels of apprenticeships for school and college leavers were Advanced (Level 3) and Degree (Level 6), which made up 28% and 25%, respectively, of all of the apprenticeships reported.

Read more blogs on this year’s survey or download the report

Find out more and register for ISE’s Delivering Apprenticeships Conference 2023


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