How Connectr is creating apprenticeships for over 50s to boost social mobility

Jun 5, 2023 | Apprentices & school leaver, Case studies, Home Featured

Phoenix Group’s apprenticeships are focused on hiring the over 50s from lower socio-economic backgrounds, explains Connectr.

Post pandemic, economic inactivity is at an all-time high, and this is one of the key factors creating the very tight labour market.

But there are some positives from this market, as early talent employers are now seeking to tap into and create new pools of diverse talent, including older workers.

ISE CEO Stephen Isherwood covered how early careers strategy must be more than school leavers and graduates in his recent blog.


Apprenticeships as an enabler of social mobility

When it comes to diversity, the UK has lower social mobility compared with all major EU countries.

Disadvantaged individuals are less likely to climb the income ladder and the economically advantaged tend to stay advantaged. Covid-19 has further compounded inequality and the cost of living crisis has, intensified the problem.

Apprenticeships provide a tool to widen opportunity for all, through re-skilling and upskilling of new and existing talent. As a result they provide levy paying employers the opportunity to deliver greater ROI from their levy spend.

A recent ISE webinar discussed the trends reshaping early career hiring and why apprentices are essential for future talent strategies.


Phoenix Group targets over 50s with apprenticeships

One of the firms who have taken action and stepped up to create such pools of new talent is the Phoenix Group.

To do this well Phoenix needed to consider a number of factors and have partnered with Connectr to create and deliver this programme.

The programme is focused on hiring cohorts of over 50s from lower socio-economic backgrounds into various roles and enrolling them onto relevant apprenticeships.

Group HR director at Phoenix, Sara Thompson, explained: “Older workers have a wide range of skills, knowledge and experience that are of enormous value in the workforce. At Phoenix Group we’re committed to recruiting and retaining over 50s and we are delighted to be working with Connectr in this field.

“We want to make Phoenix Group the best place anyone has ever worked and a key part of that ambition is working with employees to empower them to work the way they want to.”


Considerations for hiring over 50s onto apprenticeships

There were multiple considerations to set up and deliver such a programme. For example research shows that low pay affects all apprentices from disadvantaged backgrounds. Both the right salary and support with things like travel costs are key to ensure the programme is accessible.

This is being done directly by Phoenix. Salaries are far above the apprentice minimum wage and interview and pre-employment programme travel costs will be funded. To reflect different personal circumstances all roles offer flexible working hours, and opportunity for job sharing.

Sara added, “We are partnering with Connectr to specifically showcase roles to over 50s and we have put policies and training programmes in place to attract older workers into our workforce, addressing and mitigating some of the most common reasons why over 50s leave work.

“We’re offering flexible working opportunities and providing support for women going through the menopause. We also provide paid carers leave and we’re currently piloting a mid-life MOT.”


Five stages of the apprenticeship

When it comes to setting the programme up for success there are five key delivery elements, which Connectr will deliver for Phoenix.

From a strategic standpoint, senior leadership buy-in and clear accountability is critical. Andy Briggs, CEO at Pheonix Group has been appointed by government at the Business Champion for Older Workers.

1. Outreach

  • Using trusted partners including Connectr and Job Centre Plus

2. A pre-employment programme

  • One week (with cohorts of 30), which focus on such areas as
    – Growing confidence
    – Bringing roles to life and dispelling myths about apprenticeships
    – Building skills for the different stages of the recruitment process
    – Enabling individuals to reflect on and understand their strengths and what roles would this suit them best
    – How to translate past experiences into skills
    – Meet role models
  • And importantly with a guaranteed interview at the end of the one week programme

3. A supportive and inclusive screening and selection process

  • Shaped to focus on skills not qualifications
  • Where candidates are set up for success ahead of each stage of the process

4. Preparing them for day one, which includes

  • Sharing more information about the role, upcoming induction, training and the apprenticeships
  • Connecting new starters with others in their teams and line manager

5. Proactive support in the first three months

  • Support them as a cohort in their new role and from a health and wellbeing perspective
  • Weekly group calls and 121s
  • Access to a mentor
    – Using Connectr’s mentoring tech platform

According to The Sutton Trust 67% of employers now say that making apprentices accessible to those from lower socioeconomic groups is important to them, including 79% of levy paying employers.

Increased representation in the labour market brings productivity benefits for the economy and fiscal savings. A modest increase in the UK’s social mobility could be worth up to £39bn to the UK economy as a whole. Phoenix is leading the way when comes to social mobility and tapping into over-looked talent pools.


You may also be interested in

Early careers strategy must be more than school leavers and graduates

How is the apprenticeship levy being used for existing and new staff?

Why the UK is still socially immobile and what to do about it

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