From education to employment

Struggling to Recruit? The Importance of Social Media

Emma Stallwood, Digital Media and Marketing Executive, GPRS Recruitment

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past 12 months, you’ll be aware of the struggles we are having as a country to sell apprenticeships to the emerging workforce.

In fact, since the introduction of the government’s Apprenticeship Levy in April 2017, apprenticeship starts have been in decline. New figures from the Department for Education released on the 14th June 2018 reveal that the number of apprenticeship starts have fallen significantly, with a drop of 27.92% from last year’s figures (261,200 apprenticeship starts in 2017/18, down from 362,400 in 2016/17 academic year).

Ben Rowland, Co-Founder of the UK’s leader in digital, IT and HR apprenticeships says:

We firmly believe employers need to look beyond the apprenticeship levy and embrace apprenticeships as an integral part of developing the UK talent pool, keeping us a competitive nation.”

Now more than ever, the promotion of apprenticeships and making your programme a ‘sought-after’ scheme is imperative.

Over 1,400 people applied for eight spaces on the BBC apprenticeship programme – making it more competitive per place than many Oxbridge colleges. This approach shows that, with a dose of innovation, there is a way to reverse the fall in apprenticeship numbers.

Try our Top Tips for Engaging with the Apprentice Demographic

Today’s job marketplace is predominantly online, therefore maintaining an online presence is of the upmost importance, not only for company exposure, but because it can be used to create or strengthen your employer brand and to attract talent to your organisation.

Company Website

Consider for a moment if there has been a time you came across a great job advert yourself or you were contacted about a job opportunity – one of the first things you would want to do is research the company. And where do most people start? The company website.

Your website is essentially your company’s face to the world. It is the virtual equivalent of a physical business for the 3.5 billion internet users out there!

The two fundamental reasons for a company website are:

  • To discover “who you are & what you do”.
  • To effectively communicate that to the right people.

In this case we are talking about attracting prospective apprentices.

So you’ve got everything in place; you’ve chosen an apprenticeship framework or standard for an apprenticeship in your industry and at a suitable level. You’ve found an organisation that offers training for the apprenticeship framework or standard that you’ve chosen (or you are a Training Provider yourself). You know what funding is available (Levy or Non-Levy), and now is the time to advertise the apprenticeship!

Now, you could simply advertise this on your own website, online job boards or through the governments “Find an apprenticeship” service and sit and wait for applications. Or alternatively you can push your advertisements right under the noses of the people you are aiming to attract, by stepping into their world; social networking, tweeting, microblogging and photo sharing etc. So, let’s explore how social media can be utilised to elevate both brand awareness and apprenticeship engagement for your organisation.

Did you know that, globally, more than 2.8 billion people – or 37% of the world’s population, use social media?

For starters, potential apprentices will want to know what they can gain out of completing an apprenticeship with you. These are some of the advantages you could communicate to them through your social media campaigns:

  • Gain practical, relevant training and experience
  • Apprenticeships are a viable option instead of attending university
  • Learn while you earn
  • Receive the support and guidance you need
  • Build transferable skills to attract employers
  • Comprehensive training, you will also gain a work-based qualification

Next is coming up with a strategy to do this. The main challenge you may face is making people aware of the opportunities for apprenticeships.

Timing, and specifically pinpointing your chosen audience at a time when they are job-hunting, is key. And doing it in a creative way that will appeal to that younger demographic will be more effective. Do your research and see when the best times to run social media campaigns are.

Use your attraction strategy to also try and engage people who may not have started thinking about Apprenticeships yet, such as through schools and colleges, and even those who could be considering a career change!

This LinkedIn article has some great pointers for the best times to recruit apprentices.

Potential apprentices are a highly-engaged audience, and they will likely be using social media frequently, and so it is vital to be active across a variety of social platforms.

AllAboutSchoolLeaver’s 2016 research showed that 62.2% of school and college pupils use social media to stay informed about the latest events and opportunities. Almost half (48.48%) also said they wanted to be the first to know when applications for opportunities open.

At the time, 37% of school and college pupils wanted to ask employers questions via social media: Facebook (79.4%) and Twitter (65.7%) are the most popular channels, followed by Instagram (17.6%) and Google+ (17.1%).

Snapchat and Instagram appeal more strongly to a subset of younger social media users, while other top social platforms, like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, appeal to the masses.


Snapchat is the most popular social media platform amongst the younger demographic, and now institutions are able to create their own geofilters (graphic overlays that users can put over their snaps to publicise where they are/what they’re doing).

See this fantastic example of the NHS’ social media campaign during National Apprenticeship Week, using Snapchat geofilters to highlight some of the diverse roles they had on offer.


And another organisation, WHG, found success using the Snapchat geofilters, gaining 500 applications for 12 apprenticeship vacancies.


Instagram is a fantastic platform for nurturing customer relationships. It is an incredible tool for building brand awareness and affinity, and showing (not telling) your followers what you’re all about.

Instagram’s engagement rates are 58% higher than Facebook’s and 2,000% higher than Twitter’s.

As well as the ability to showcase your organisation, company values, culture, and vacancies, you can use hashtags to bring apprentices together. For example you could use the government’s #getingofar hashtag to connect nationally, and set up your own hashtag to bring together your own community.


Facebook alone has a huge range of different advertising and posting options; Facebook Live to stream apprenticeship events/fairs in real time, image carousel format (lets you show 2 or more images and/or videos, headlines and links or calls to action in one single ad) so you could feature multiple apprenticeship options in one post, Lead generation ads to allow people to use pre-populated enquiry forms, and Facebook job postings allowing people to apply directly through the platform, are just a few examples of different formats you can use to engage with prospective apprentices and stand out from the crowd!


Twitter is a fantastic network for organic engagement, allowing you to directly communicate with your followers, you can reach a large audience and grow brand awareness, as well as joining in discussions and share other relevant content. Hashtags are essential!

Posting tweets in a key area of subject matter is a great way for organisations to boost engagement. A Twitter chat is a discussion centred on a certain topic that is of interest to your target audience, and it’s especially effective for connecting with a specialised industry. Starting or joining a topic of conversation using or creating a hashtag, is a great way to target prospective apprentices

Be sure to respond to those who tweet or direct message you and track your mentions, retweets and new followers.

Mix Up Your Content

Not every piece of social media content needs to be directly promotional, in fact, you’re more likely to get a reaction from your audience by engaging with them on an emotional level.

Think about creating types of content that are useful (such as linking to a blog post or news article), inspiring (sharing success stories of your existing apprentices) or entertaining (a fun gif or meme relating to a trending topic) in order to really engage with your social media followers.

Not only will these types of content be more valuable to your audience, they’re also more likely to be seen. Creative, funny and engaging content is also more likely to be shared amongst their networks, increasing your audience immeasurably.


Candidate attraction and the application process also needs to be mobile friendly.

Did you know that more people own a mobile phone on the planet than own a toothbrush?

This (slightly worrying) statistic just goes to show the importance of mobile optimisation and the value in ensuring your audience can connect with you with ease, on a handheld device.

They have the information and access to opportunities in the palm of their hands – and by reaching out to young people proactively through online platforms, you will be growing your company exposure, strengthening your employer brand and attracting talent to your organisation!

Our Sales Support and Marketing Executive, Mac Christian started his career at GPRS Recruitment as a Business Administration Apprentice.

Emma Stallwood, Digital Media and Marketing Executive, GPRS Recruitment

Copyright © 2018 FE News

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