Covid 19’s Impact on Early Talent Programmes
Cohesion are market leaders in early talent recruitment and work with organisations spanning numerous sectors, geographies and markets. Delivering programmes that range in size and complexity from 5 to 500, each year they attract, screen, select and onboard thousands of graduates, I.P’s, summer placements and apprentices.
At the time of writing, we are in our second week of isolation and the impact of Covid 19 is now being felt in every element of life and business.
From a recruitment perspective, and especially through an early talent lens, it is interesting to see how different sectors, institutions and organisations are managing the implications of the fallout.
Discussions and perspectives for both short and medium-term actions are changing daily from a ‘business as usual’ standpoint, to a ‘freeze’ and in some extreme examples, cancellation of early talent programmes.
Graduates and Industrial Placement Programmes
Fortunately, many organisations had either concluded or were in the latter stages of the recruitment cycle by the time that isolation and non-critical travel had come into force. The small proportion of those who were still holding assessment centres have either replaced the face to face format with video interviewing or postponed them until the ban is lifted. The consensus is that any offers that have been made will be honoured, though candidates that had been shortlisted but not completed their assessment process will be ‘put on ice’.
This though begs the next question as to how organisations will continue to engage with these individuals, and also, the possible impact of delaying start dates in the Autumn. We have also noticed the varying impact of Coronavirus when comparing one industry to another. Clients operating in the food, manufacturing and logistics sectors are operating beyond their normal output and capacity, and any graduate programmes will be running with no or little impact. Conversely, clients within the travel, hospitality and aviation sectors are now considering the validity of a proposed start in September, with some organisations questioning the financial cost and viability of running a programme.
The recruitment process for summer intern programmes is normally slightly later than that of graduates and I.P.’s and as a result has been disrupted more significantly. Today we have seen in the press the first (of what I am sure will be many) summer scheme cancellations. With no defined or clear idea of a potential end date to the lockdown, organisations are discussing the few options that are available to them. Beyond cancellation as the most extreme option, businesses are debating reducing the length of the programme down from 8 weeks to 6 or even 4, the option of online shadowing and even the notion of running the scheme over the Easter holiday next year.
This is the area that could potentially be hit the hardest as a result of working restrictions. With universities, colleges and schools shutting down as well as businesses and places of work, the notion of running an effective apprenticeship scheme is seemingly being impacted from both sides. Simon Ashworth – Chief Policy Officer at Association of Employment and Learning providers has recently commented –
“Where apprentices are furloughed (granted a leave of absence) or placed on unpaid leave, or where the nature of their employment changes and no longer supports their apprenticeship, the apprentice, employer and training provider should consider whether a break in learning would be appropriate.”
We know from experience that cancellations of Early Talent programmes can cause significant succession planning and recruitment challenges in years to come, where the future leaders or technical specialists for your business, are just not coming through the ranks.
Although no one can predict when we will be back to ‘business as usual’, it is worth bearing in mind that Early Talent programmes have successfully proven to build your future pipeline.
From conversations with organisations, and using sources such as The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IFATE) there is a general consensus that the industry is:
- Encouraging training providers to deliver training to apprentices remotely and via e-learning as far as is practicable
- Allowing the modification of end-point assessment arrangements, including remote assessments wherever practicable and possible
- Clarifying that apprentices ready for assessment, but who cannot be assessed due to COVID-19 issues, can have their end-point assessment rescheduled. Apprentices whose gateway is delayed can have an extension to the assessment timeframe
- Enabling employers and training providers to report and initiate a break in learning where the interruption to learning due to COVID-19 is greater than four weeks
- Clarification on how to record breaks in learning so that funding is not unnecessarily disrupted
- Confirming that, where apprentices are made redundant, it is our ambition to find them alternative employment and continue their apprenticeship as quickly as possible and within 12 weeks
By working collectively with our clients, universities and others supply chain partners we are confident that whatever disruption has been caused on a short and medium-term basis, can be overcome by working closely together and as a unified collective. Whilst there will be a possible reduction in early talent numbers across the various programmes, we are continuing to remain optimistic that the majority of early talent programmes for 2020/21 will be kicking off in the autumn.