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How employers can re-build their communities through inclusive apprenticeship programmes

In celebration of National Apprenticeship Week 2021, NCFE has produced a podcast with some well-known voices from the apprenticeship and skills sector, discussing the relevance of qualifications as part of the recruitment process. One of the panellists is founder and director of Amazing Apprenticeships, Anna Morrison. Here, she shares her thoughts on the role of employers in re-building their communities through inclusive apprenticeship programmes.

Over the past ten months, I have been speaking to many employers navigating their way through the myriad of youth employment options available to their businesses. For employers who are not familiar with the skills sector, I can appreciate how this might feel like a daunting task. We are fortunate that our government has started to invest heavily in the futures of young people trying to secure work through various incentives and initiatives as outlined in the Plan for Jobs, however, we are still seeing low numbers of vacancies, and this is also true of apprenticeships.

As a member of the Youth Employment Group, I am all too aware that we have a looming youth unemployment crisis. The rising number of young people aged 16-24 who are unemployed has been well reported by the media in recent months. We also know that those from disadvantaged backgrounds and with additional personal barriers will require extra support to access opportunities. The ‘All Party Parliamentary Group’ (APPG) for Youth Employment report ‘Making Youth Employment Policy Work’ lays out this data for us.

Research conducted by the Open University and The 5% Club in January 2021 paints a very positive picture. They found that:

  • 70% of employers believe that apprenticeships will be vital to their organisation’s recovery (compared to just 50% of businesses surveyed in August 2020)
  • 72% of employers plan to hire more apprentices over the next year (up from 61% when polled last summer) and this is true for both SMEs and large businesses.

While it is extremely encouraging that there is such confidence from employers to increase apprenticeship opportunities on the horizon, this is tempered with the significant challenges our young people now face. Many of them are dealing with disrupted education, reduced household income through furlough and redundancy, digital exclusion, and loss of social interaction, all of which are exacerbated for young people from less-advantaged backgrounds.

We know from our work that employers are keen to diversify their workforce and that they want to use this time of recovery to be more inclusive and representative of the communities they serve. It is time to ask ourselves how we might re-think our recruitment practices and consider if we are really being as inclusive as we can be.

Here are four quick ideas that might help…

1. Highlight your inclusive support in job adverts

Make sure you tell potential applicants how disabilities will be accommodated, whether flexible or part-time working is an option and highlight health and wellbeing initiatives. Advertise that the right candidate is more important than the 9-5.

2. Focus on attitude, potential, and strength-based recruitment

Traditionally employers use entry requirements to filter out applicants – often based on qualifications. Instead, take time to focus on motivators, talents, attitude and potential. This will not only widen the talent pool but allow an applicant’s enthusiasm and strengths to be displayed.

3. Provide feedback

We have heard from countless young people about how de-motivating it is to devote hours towards applications only to hear nothing in response. This is an easy fix with simple communication.

  • Acknowledge the application, even if by automatic response.
  • If you are lucky enough to need to shortlist, write to all applicants to let them know whether or not they have been successful at this stage, ideally with an explanation as to why.
  • Provide feedback to all candidates that make it to interview. Encouraging words and a little substance behind a decision is incredibly valuable for a candidate. They have invested a huge amount of time and effort and deserve a response to know what they did right and how they impressed.
  • Feedback / signposting unsuccessful candidates to further support. If you really want to take your role of ‘responsible recruiter’ to the next level, signpost unsuccessful candidates to further resources. Let them know about the Find an Apprenticeship vacancy site, and make sure they know about the free support available through the National Careers Service.

 4. Think about who will add to your culture as well as ‘fit in’ with your team

Traditionally, we recruit to keep harmony in a team as a priority but, sometimes, challenging that status quo can offer so much more. Push the boundaries, consider applicants who will also challenge your culture or way of thinking for the better. Approach your recruitment drive with this as a top priority and you will be enhancing your team rather than simply adding to it.

We know from the many employers already working with us on The Genie Programme (The Genuine Interest in Equality Programme) that it is not just about the business impact that a diversified workforce can offer, there is a keen willingness across UK businesses to address social mobility and diversity issues with sensitivity and confidence and embrace a wider talent pool because it is the right thing to do. Taking into consideration the varied talent and new perspectives that inclusive recruitment can achieve, implementing the above steps will take employers some way towards what should fast become a common goal.

To find out more about The Genie Programme, head over to the Amazing Apprenticeships website.

For more information on NCFE’s apprenticeship offer, please visit our dedicated webpage.


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