How-to reach the right apprentices to build a diverse workforce

Jun 27, 2023 | Apprentices & school leaver, Home Featured, How-to

Engaging quality candidates from diverse backgrounds is a huge challenge in today’s competitive employment market. Siobhan Williams, business engagement manager for apprenticeships at UCAS, offers advice.

At the recent ISE Student Recruitment Conference we shared our latest data on potential apprentices.  

With 1.5 million users and 4,500 schools and colleges engaging with UCAS platforms, we have unique insights that inform our apprenticeship activity.  

Here we share tips on how organisations can gain early careers engagement to build a diverse workforce. 


Which apprenticeship subjects do students want? 

Before they apply to university or for an apprenticeship, potential applicants who register with us can select the different apprenticeship subjects they’d like to know more about: 

  • Social Studies – 56% 
  • Business – 46% 
  • Medicine – 41% 
  • Arts – 33% 
  • Psychology – 30% 
  • Engineering – 28% 
  • ICT – 18% 

To target these students it’s important for employers to stand out. Show them exactly how your brand epitomises the subject they’re interested in. 

 Interest in apprenticeships is increasing 

Almost a third of UCAS’ registered users want to find out more about apprenticeships – across a large range of subjects. 


How do potential applicants engage with opportunities? 

Promote your brand and your opportunities on digital platforms to gain exposure to potential apprentices and employees – not just during the key times they’re looking to apply, but all year round.  

That way students can get to know your brand in the earlier stages of their journey and their decision-making. 

We know internet research is as key as ever – has over 60m visitors each year.  

  • Potential students search for traditional university and college courses and subject inspiration. 
  • Potential employees search our employer profiles to find out about the work they do – and our careers job board, where they can familiarise themselves with the types of opportunities on offer and the brands who offer them. 

Often these potential students and potential employees are the same people – researching their options to either study full-time or work and study on an apprenticeship.  

They can apply to courses and employment opportunities simultaneously, allowing them to find the best match for them, and for employers to find the right applicants for their vacancies. 

We know events are key for engaging the talent of tomorrow as well. While the Covid-19 pandemic saw in-person events more-or-less disappear, they’re up and running at full force again (with a 12% year on year increase in attendance at UCAS’ Discovery exhibition in Birmingham this week) – they’re great ways to make meaningful connections with potential apprentices face-to-face.  

In-person events are regaining popularity 

UCAS’ Discovery events attract 150,000 attendees a year. Our recent 2023 premium exhibition events in London attracted over 15,000 students looking to discover their next steps, with exhibitors gaining over 230k connections.  


Which strategies work – and which don’t? 

We know data insights help employers to target recruitment campaigns through various social media platforms, email and advertising.  

Across 50 different data points, we can see how reaching the right audience means employers gain wider exposure for their brands, and opportunities are directed towards target markets with higher intent to apply. 

We know it’s worth thinking about the key influencers for a young person too – and how you may be able to engage with them: 

  • parents 
  • teaching staff in the curriculum areas your apprentices link to 
  • careers advisers 
  • industry advisers and digital resources  

If these influencers are made aware of your opportunities and the success stories of your apprentices, they’ll be able to pass on the word to the potential employees you want to hire. 

On the other hand, strategies that don’t work include: 

  • daunting or lengthy recruitment activities  
  • poor targeting 
  • a lack of personalisation 

With such a lot of choice on offer – from apprenticeships to jobs or degrees – applicants are likely to disengage from generic or complicated content. 

Targeting is key 

For Capgemini, targeted recruitment with UCAS led to large numbers of engagement and successful recruitment of 40 graduates and apprentices in their campaign and helped them to meet their ED&I target. 


How do you work with schools to engage young people early? 

Recent updates to Provider Access Legislation mean schools have to offer at least six encounters with approved providers of apprenticeships – from as early as year 8. See how you can work with schools to be one of those providers. Local Enterprise Partnerships, Careers Hubs and sector-specific school outreach organisations may be able to help too.  

Try to make your outreach interactive – from employer projects and mock interviews to site visits for students and work experience.  

And consider key motivations for a school leaver – make sure you describe your sustainability values and career progression opportunities clearly.  


The dos and don’ts of targeted recruitment 

  • Do plan campaigns for peak audience exploring times.   
  • Don’t just focus on the exposure a vacancy will generate. 
  • Do target young people who are ready to make their decisions now. 
  • Don’t clash with typical exam periods and application deadlines in year 13 and 12. 
  • Do create visibility all year round to reach people who are researching years in advance. 
  • Don’t cause barriers for care leavers, neurodiverse applicants or those with disabilities. 
  • Do use consistent messaging and tone of voice to build trust. 
  • Don’t neglect targeting, analytics or tracking. 
  • Do include clear calls to action and personalisation. 
  • Don’t forget to optimise your content for mobile. 


What’s next? 

We’re excited to see the numbers of apprenticeship applicants continue to rise. To help them match with the right employer for them – and vice versa – we’ll be introducing a new talent matching service on our jobs board. This supports our work with the Department for Education in connecting employers with young people earlier in their decision-making process – with application support as well.  

From 2024 we’ll be offering a single application service for apprentices and you will be able to use our tools and services to support your recruitment processes from filtering and shortlisting, right through to recruitment activities. Ultimately at UCAS we are working to bring parity of esteem for apprenticeship pathways and in doing so unlocking the next generation of talent for you. More about how employers can find apprentices 


You may also be interested in: 

How to create opportunities for half a million potential apprentices 

How HSBC and Pathway CTM used meaningful encounters to attract diverse students 

7 ways to engage schools and school leavers 



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