From education to employment

Struggling to Recruit Apprentices? Top Tips for Employers and Training Providers

Helen Wilson, Sales Director of GPRS Recruitment

“Research released today featuring in this morning’s CityAM, shows that almost half of businesses that operate an apprenticeship scheme under the new guidelines are struggling to recruit apprentices, leading to doubts around whether the new apprenticeships will be enough to boost UK productivity.

We firmly believe that, by taking the time to choose the best possible programme and delivery method, the new apprenticeship standards will unlock talent and play a vital role in filling critical skills gaps. Check out our guide to see how you can identify the right apprentices and training for your organisation.” ILM’s Latest news

Unless you’ve been lucky enough to be stranded on a desert island, you will have heard there is a candidate shortage that has spread to all the vast majority of sectors within British industry and commerce. The candidate shortage isn’t just affecting skilled employees but it is also affecting apprentices too and this is echoed in the article above.

GPRS is a work based learning and training recruiter and our ongoing success is totally and utterly dependent on our ability to attract not only quality candidates for our client roles, but apprentices for our own business as we boast a great track record in developing young people.

Planning and Preparation

You know what the saying is about poor planning, well here are some tasks you need to tackle before you begin to recruit for apprentices either for your company or for your employers:

The Job Description

Think carefully about what you want the apprentice to do. Then prioritise the tasks into the order of potential interest to the apprentice. Filing and photocopying isn’t interesting for anyone, but it is can be an essential part of the role. If there are more interesting tasks, put those first.

When you advertise the roles make sure you list the duties this way. Research shows that the Job Description is one of the main things candidates look for when applying for a new role. Would you apply for a job that looked boring?

Think about what sells the company

You want a potential apprentice to be attracted to work for you or your employer, so you need to sell the prospect of working for that company.

Somebody once said to me, “No one wants to work for somewhere ordinary, people want to work somewhere special. Every company is unique and has something to sell. Not all companies are multi-nationals, some are small, independent, friendly companies, some offer free car parking, some offer great CPD.

Being able to attract good candidates is fundamental to ongoing success, we have to captivate our audience through advertising. To do this, at vacancy taking stage ask yourself the following questions about your business in order to promote it effectively.

Such questions are:

  • What sells your company?
  • What accreditations do you possess?
  • What awards have you won?
  • What is your company most proud of?
  • What makes your company different?
  • What is the culture like in your company – who fits in?
  • What are your company’s values – how are they demonstrated?
  • Why do you work for your company?
  • Why do people like to work for your company?

Some companies are really switched on to this and will rattle of a whole list of things, for others good questioning skills need to be utilised to extract the information to help pique a candidate’s interest sufficiently to apply.

If a company doesn’t look very interesting, would you want to apply for a job there? No, and neither will other candidates.

Consider salary

Would you apply for the lowest paid job or the role that was in the same location that paid more? Roles with a low salary attached are hard to fill as candidates would rather work for a company paying more and they do have a choice at the moment.

The issue here is its false economy because candidates who accept a role that is low paid, usually continue looking for a higher paid role and generally leave so the role has to be refilled. No need to say more. It is worth doing some market research to find out what the going rate is.

Career Prospects

Whether potential apprentices really want to progress their career when push comes to shove or just like the idea of it, most like to think there will be some prospects for them so find out what your employer has to offer. Maybe get an example of an employee who started as an apprentice and has progressed.

GPRS has an employee who is now a Marketing Executive who joined as a Business Administration apprentice three years ago. We always mention his success story. We have Recruiters who joined us with no experience at all and have been nominated for national awards.

Plan your recruitment process

Candidates apply for a role and if they are seriously interested they will be keen to hear the outcome. If you contact them on receipt of their application, they are flattered because it shows you are interested in them. The longer you leave them, the more their level of interest will wane. It is also worth considering that the good candidates will be snapped up first and if you’re not quick enough, it will be by your competitor.

GPRS always ask our clients when they intend to interview the candidates and strongly advise them to keep it within a week or so of application.   Research and our personal experience shows that candidates that are kept waiting either pull out of the recruitment process or get snapped up by a competitor. It is highly competitive out there you need to treat it as such.

Attracting Candidates

If an estate agent placed an advert for a property they would describe the property and its key selling points. Yet, frequently when someone advertises a vacancy they list what they are looking for in the candidate and not what the company has to offer or what the candidate will be doing. The definition for the word advert is: “a notice or announcement in a public medium promoting a product, service or publicising a job vacancy.”

The way people buy products changes all the time. For instance, more people now look for jobs on their mobile phones, so short, punchy sentences need to be used so they can be easily viewed on a phone.

At GPRS we liaise constantly with the job boards to get their advice on how best to structure our adverts to maximise on our investment.

What the training looks like

Potential apprentices want to know what will be offered if they become an apprentice so we talk through the type of training that will be offered. We talk through the in house induction and what is included and how it is delivered.

Some may be nervous because they think they won’t be able to do the job, so we talk through what steps we take to make sure they have all the skills they need to do the job well and how they are going to be supported. Candidates like to know a company is going to invest in them.

Strike whilst the iron is hot

Generally, those that are applying for jobs will be applying for several roles. As mentioned before, don’t hang about when it comes to responding to a candidate’s application. Call them within 48 hours as often they have forgotten which roles they have applied for if you leave it much longer.

Plan some easy to answer questions to break the ice

Many apprentices are nervous, or may lack confidence, so plan some easy to answer questions to allow them to be comfortable speaking to you before you begin to ask more questions to help give you an insight into the candidate.

Plan some questions to identify motivators: A motivator is something that gets someone to do something. It is very easy now to apply for a job – click a button or two and voila, your CV has been, as if by magic forwarded to a role.

People apply for jobs when they are:

  1. Looking for a job
  2. Bored
  3. Having a bad day at work

If it is the latter two they are likely to not be really committed to a change and applying for a job is so easy and requires very little commitment or effort, so ask them questions to find out more about their motivators:

  • Tell me about the aspects of your previous jobs you’ve enjoyed / tell me the subjects you’ve enjoyed the most at college or school? Why did you enjoy them?
  • Tell me about the aspects of your previous jobs that you’ve not liked doing / tell me the subjects you’ve not liked at college or school? Why did you dislike them?
  • What sort of jobs have you applied for (gives you an idea of what they really want to do)?

It is better to keep questions generic as they may be more suited to another apprenticeship rather than the one the have applied for. Candidates have a tendency to tailor their questions to the role for which they have applied, when it may not be the most suitable role for them. This allows you to keep your options open and assess what they are really looking for as opposed to what they applied for.

CVs don’t tell the full picture

Many people apply for jobs and send CVs that are out of date or have qualifications and recent jobs missing. If you have lots of candidates to choose from, then you can afford to be picky.

If not, pick up the phone and ask the questions. You’ll be amazed how many candidates that look unsuitable on paper, are actually right for the job.

Make applying easy

There is a tendency now for people just to click a button and send a CV. I try to encourage people to call in and speak to someone personally. Make sure the person that answers the calls treats them kindly.

Have you ever called a company and asked for your contact to be told they’re not available and no effort is made to find out who you are, where you’re from or why you’re calling? Make sure this isn’t what your company does as you could be losing potential candidates.

Some potential apprentices won’t call in because they are too nervous but others will and that call shows they are demonstrating commitment to securing a role.

Online Exposure

Today’s job market place is predominantly online, therefore maintaining a company’s online presence; such as an up to date company website and social media channels, 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.

We will go more in depth with the digital aspect of apprentice attraction our follow up part 2 of this article tomorrow.

Helen Wilson, Sales Director, GPRS

Copyright © 2018 FE News

About Helen: Helen has over 20 years experience in recruitment and selection at all levels and across many, many sectors. 

GPRSAbout GPRS Recruitment: GPRS Recruitment (Giraffe Permanent Recruitment Specialists Ltd) began in 2007 with the sole intention of providing an excellent standard of recruitment experience for both client and candidates, thus making us “head and shoulders above the rest”.  

We believe that recruitment can, and therefore that it should, be done better. So, our service level remains exceptionally high, regardless of the side of the interview table you happen to be sitting at. You’ll get exactly the same superstar treatment. We don’t take advantage of our clients – because, quite simply, we want them to use us again and again. We don’t under-represent our candidates – because we want them to remember us when they’re sitting in the hiring manager’s chair.

We are pleased to announce that we passed our Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) Audit again this year. The REC Audited scheme is recognised as the gold-standard for recruitment businesses. The audit is comprehensive, and goes much further than just compliance; requiring agencies to operate best practice in areas such as customer service, staff development, diversity, and client management. GPRS is one of only 0.5% of recruitment companies in the UK to be successfully Quality Audited by the REC.

Awards include:

  • REC Awards – Winner of Best People Development Company, and Best Client Experience.
  • Great Place to Work – Ranked 13th nationally in the small business category.
  • Recruiter Awards – Top 10 Best Newcomer. 

In addition, we also retained our Investors in people (IIP) Gold in the new standard this year, leading to us being finalists for IIP Gold Employer of the Year 2017.

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