6 questions for designing an apprentice attraction strategy
5 September 2019
Brian Sinclair of Fidelity International explains how to cost effectively attract talent from local schools for local roles.
1. How do you make your apprentice application process the path of least resistance?
Students will always choose the path of least resistance. A typical job application is more complex than a UCAS application, which schools know how to support students through. However, when applying for a job, students often find the selection process confusing and with limited guidance available from schools, parents or even employers, many students are not curious enough to even consider applying.
To encourage applications you need to remove fear from the selection process. We achieved this by referring applications throughout the selection process to a detailed description of the process on our website. This resulted in higher conversion between stages, fewer dropouts at assessment centres and very positive feedback on our process, people and brand.
2. Do you need your apprentices talking at events?
Diffusion of innovations goes someway to clarify why you do. The theory seeks to explain how, why, and at what rate, new ideas or innovations spread - such as apprenticeships where the post-levy format is still relatively new and only taken up by a small number of school leavers. It can be beneficial to explain to apprentices that they are innovators/early adopters, equipping them with information about the benefits of your programme and why they were right to choose it. They can then go back into schools to deliver a talk or help build contacts with the most relevant person.
Peer-to-peer conversations are important and a recommendation is powerful. Your apprentices are naturally more authentic and convincing than a 40-something HR/recruitment rep, so let these ‘innovators’ build an ‘early majority’ for your programme.
3. How do you write apprentice job descriptions to motivate candidates to apply?
To encourage students to apply you need to write a job description in a way that appeals to them. I suggest weaving the following elements into your content (read Drive by Daniel Pink for more):
- Autonomy: Our desire to be self-directed - mention what will they be responsible for.
- Mastery: The urge to get better skills - explain how the student will develop and what they will learn.
- Purpose: The desire to do something that has meaning and is important - include what they will do that will add value to them, the company and the wider world.
This approach can also be effective when talking to students at events and I advise our speakers - from apprentices to senior stakeholders - to mention these elements when speaking to potential applicants. When you talk to students about what they will own, what they will learn or help them understand how they will make an impact, their ears will prick up!
4. How do you get on the radar of influencers?
School children making decisions about their careers are greatly influenced by their parents and teachers, so you need to be well informed on the school system, the current marketplace/economy, the industry and future trends.
If, like me, you work for a relatively unknown brand, this can also be a challenge. I got us on the radar of influencers by creating a ‘Large Apprentice Employers in Surrey’ map. It was essential that this was a useful resource for local schools, so I researched online and branded it ‘sponsored by Fidelity, supported by Fledglink & Pathway CTM’ with the government’s apprenticeship logo. I added some useful features such as explaining the apprenticeship levels and including an academic events calendar.
This showed schools that our aim was to advise pupils and parents of the wider options available after their A-Levels. By providing them with a great, free resource we also showed that we had their best interests at heart and it wasn’t just about promoting our brand and roles.
5. How do you market to schools?
This new generation were ‘born digital’ and as such spend a lot of time online with high use of social media and mobile devices. However, being digitally active when targeting schools is not enough. You need to go old school! It’s extremely effective to have stuff students can see around their school, like an A4 single-sided flyer that could be printed off in the school and pinned to noticeboards or emailed directly to students and parents via a newsletter. Keep it simple, printable and readable to encourage applications.
6. How do you build relationships with local schools?
Nothing beats getting invited in to speak direct to your target audience. But what gets you invited?
I noticed that when employers went into their local school, many of them simply described what they were looking for in an ideal candidate, but didn’t tell students why they looked for them or how to identify them or build on them.
I designed several different sessions to help students improve in ways that would increase their chances of getting a job, apprenticeship or place at university. Topics covered areas such as understanding the importance of marginal differences at school and at work, why you should be active in your community and how to practice professional relationships skills while at school so you can apply them in the workplace. These appealed to both the students and the school.
As a result of all this we achieved a great working relationship with local schools and the local council. We were invited to deliver more than 20 school talks and presentations. We had more applications via local schools with 70% of our offers to candidates of schools we’d engaged with directly.
Read more advice and information on apprenticeships in the practice section of the ISE’s Knowledge hub.