Close

How to Attract Young Talent Using Apprenticeships: Four Actions for Your Business to Take


With a current “£100k gap” between university graduates and apprentices, a growing number of young people are choosing to go straight to work. We discuss how to make sure your business doesn’t miss out on this emerging pool of talent. 


Ben Rowland, Director of Government & Public Services at AVADO, has over 10 years of experience of working in the education sector and recently penned an article for FE News on the “£100k gap” between university students and apprentices. 

This refers to the gap between a 21-year-old graduate and a 21-year-old who at 18 did an apprenticeship: the £100k is made up of the £50k it typically costs to become a university graduate and the £50k that an apprentice might typically earn in the same time period. 

The cost gap, along with the saturation of degrees, sees a decrease in the value of university degrees, leading more and more young people to opt for going straight into work. 

There are 3.67 million 15-19-year-olds in the UK who are currently deciding on what career they want to pursue, meaning your business potentially has 3.67 million future candidates for your hard-to-fill vacancies. And with Open University revealing that 63% of UK businesses are experiencing a skills gap, and 68% are unable to find suitable candidates for their open vacancies — young people could be the untapped pool of talent employers are searching for. 

So what do you need to do to attract more young talent?

1. Adapt your recruitment process

According to UKCES, businesses often rely on informal recruitment processes (like word of mouth) to fill vacancies. However, this puts young people, especially those from working-class households, at a disadvantage. 

Another (more equal) way to find talent is to reach out directly to local schools, colleges and youth centres, or work with existing school engagement programmes to ethically source candidates. 

In addition to this, it’s important to put yourself in the shoes of a young person when creating job descriptions. Adults with work experience can read a job description and confidently apply for a role where they only meet 60% of the requirements listed. However, a young person often lacks the confidence and experience necessary to do that; instead, when they see an extensive list of candidate specifications they don’t currently meet, they can be instantly be put off from applying. 

So how can we remove this barrier? Well, in order to attract young talent, you may want to look at adapting your current job description templates to reduce the number of requirements to just focus on the deal-breaking qualities and skills you need. 

2. Set line manager expectations

Often, line managers will have high expectations for candidates –  after all, they want to hire the best people for their team. However, younger applicants may be scared off by a long list of candidate requirements. In other words, high expectations can be unreasonable when looking to hire young candidates. 

One way to prevent this from happening is for HR to help set job expectations. It’s essential for HR to sign off job descriptions and assess whether expectations of the candidate are realistic. If they’re not, it may be a good idea to review the requirements and see how many of them are critical. If the line manager is set on only seeing degree-qualified candidates, delve deeper into their reasoning. 

“For many, it is part of a broader mindset that university is ‘the’ goal.”

– Ben Rowland, FE News

It’s also an opportunity to reassess the people needs in the team. Do they actually need to hire in at a senior level, or could they up-skill from within and bring in a candidate at an entry-level to pick up the more manual, admin-heavy tasks?

3. Provide them with a support system 

When we consider the challenges of hiring young people, Ben Rowland reminds us of the importance of support systems. University students don’t typically have a strong support system outside of their friendship group, something which plays a huge part in the growing student mental health crisis. 

However, for some young people, the idea of taking a step towards full-time employment (without diving straight in) can be a major reason for choosing an apprenticeship over university – and choosing your company over a competitor.

Once the hire is made, the apprentice’s line manager is the person that will make or break that young person’s experience in their first job. If the line manager has the right expectations, they should be able to apprehend the candidates’ abilities within their first few months – and provide much better support.

“Patient line managers are better placed to ask questions, to seek understanding, to actively listen, and to build a culture where people feel able to ask for further explanation,” writes Investors in People – and this rings especially true with young staff. 

Young hires may require more patience than usual. Simple tasks like using a photocopier or correct phone etiquette are skills that the manager may need to teach unexpectedly. But with the right attitude, enthusiasm, and support, they can become integral to your business.

For this reason, it’s essential to ensure that teams with entry-level employees are open and prepared for this lack of experience. Young people are bursting with questions, and their line managers won’t always know the answers – so it’s important to create an open an inclusive team culture, where your young hires feel comfortable to talk to the rest of their team too.

4. Understand that job-hopping is the norm

While baby boomers may have enjoyed staying in one job until retirement, the world of work has changed substantially in the last few years. With inflation increasing the cost of living, wages are failing to keep up, making higher salaries the driving force behind the growing tendency to “job-hop”. 

However, other factors are also behind job satisfaction. As mentioned by FE News, a common concern amongst young people is the idea of “missing out” on the student experience if they choose to go straight into the world of work. Your business can help alleviate those concerns by providing a social culture that has great perks. Not only does this play a huge part in employees happiness, but it’s also important in growing the confidence of young team members. 

Company perks can also be a great way to attract young people to apply for roles. Fun employee benefits like free breakfast, beer Fridays or team building days can make a difference, so it’s important to shout about them in your job descriptions.

Additionally, a culture of promoting from within and rising through the ranks can be a significant motivating force. Hearing from the interviewer that they were in the candidate’s shoes only a few years ago shows that there are lots of opportunities within the company – and it’s something that’s likely to attract young people to your company.

Are apprenticeships the answer to attracting young talent? 

Often, senior leaders or hiring managers can be apprehensive about hiring young staff. There is still a misconception that young people are unengaged, low-skilled, and difficult to manage with bad attitudes. However, that’s simply not true.

Apprenticeships could be a stepping stone to attracting young talent. With an apprenticeship scheme, training providers can hold your hand throughout the process, and provide support for your HR team, line managers, and the candidate throughout the entire apprenticeship. 

But what will your business get out of it?

A tailored recruitment process. Apprenticeships are a great, cost-effective method of finding and training exciting young talent. 

Some training providers, like Arch, have in-house recruitment teams that specialise in sourcing, screening and supporting young people. Other providers have begun to use video CVs and other digital recruitment methods that closely align with what young people use every day. 

Shifting the focus from qualifications to learning on the job. A willingness to learn is becoming increasingly important in today’s working environment. And through apprenticeships, this “learning culture” becomes automatically embedded in your company. For example, the government requires apprentices to gain “substantive new skills” in order to be eligible to go on a programme. This sets the expectations for both the apprentice and the employer – and creates a positive attitude towards learning on the job.

A three-pronged support system. Apprentices need a strong support system – and to create this, your organisation will need to work together across your HR team, line managers, and training coaches. All three functions must work together to produce the best outcome from the apprenticeship for both the candidate and the business. 

Reduce job-hopping. Apprentices are known to stay with their employer longer than graduates. They view the apprenticeship as an investment in them, creating a sense of loyalty towards their team, and employer.

“85% of those doing an apprenticeship stay in employment when the apprenticeship finishes (and in most cases with the same employer).”

Ben Rowland in FE News

Get started with Arch Apprentices

Arch have been working with employers since 2012 to help them find emerging talent looking for their lucky break. Graded Ofsted ‘Outstanding’, we offer apprenticeships in industries such as digital marketing, IT, HR and finance. 

Ready to start tapping into the market of 3.67 million young people? Get in touch today at solutions@avadolearning.com

Stephanie Khan

Stephanie is a former Marketing Apprentice, and now a Content Marketing Executive at AVADO. Since completing her apprenticeship, she has become an advocate for apprentices and the benefit they bring to businesses. She writes about modern apprenticeships, the levy, and the digital skills crisis.

Posted July 18, 2019