For those of us who work in the Early Talent space, we know that apprenticeships are becoming an increasingly popular choice for employers, with organisations looking to hire more apprentices and fewer graduates.
But it’s not just as simple as ‘build it and they will come’ when it comes to apprenticeship recruitment. Just because your organisation wants to increase how many apprentices taken each year, doesn’t mean you will see more people applying to them. Perceptions of apprenticeships still have a way to go. Prospects’ 2022 survey found that only 12% of students wanted to pursue an apprenticeship, and 60% planned on going to university. Of this 60%, over half said degrees have a better reputation than apprenticeships.
Below we share 5 top tips to help you build and deliver a successful Schools Outreach campaign.
1. What is your purpose?
As of January 2023, there are over 24,000 schools in the UK. While this includes schools such as primary which are not likely to be relevant, this is a huge number. It’s impossible to even begin building and delivering your outreach strategy when we have so many schools in the UK.
You will need to consider what the purpose is for your organisation to help you find the right data to inform your strategy and how to start communicating with schools.
Do you want to increase applications in hard to fill areas? Do you want to increase the diversity of your apprentice intakes? Do you want to build a school outreach strategy as part of your CSR initiative? Whatever the purpose, make sure it’s clear and defined before you begin. Not only does this make it easier to deliver successfully, but it also helps keep you on track when you encounter challenges.
2. Expect to build a partnership
Rightly so, schools will want to provide the best opportunities for their students and will want to understand the benefit to them. This means that they may ask you to speak with all year groups, not just the ones who could apply to your programmes that year.
Additionally, think about what more you can offer to support with wider employability or networking. This can include CV workshop, office/site visit days, or sharing insights with Careers Guidance/Heads of Year about what developmental areas you see with your new apprentice joiners so they can address these through learning.
Remember – school outreach is helping you strategically build your talent pipelines. It’s a long-term solution and not something to ‘solve’ a lean recruitment year.
3. Use data to evaluate ROI:
Have relevant questions in your application form. Did the applicant meet you at an event? What school did they attend? Were they eligible for free school meals?
Not only does this help evaluate the success of what you have done, but it means you can begin to build on the insights to inform your longer-term strategy.
When you’ve tracked this information, you can utilise your incoming cohort for the year ahead. Why not ask them to attend their old school to give a talk on their recruitment process or why your organisation is great!
Remember when we said you need to define your purpose before you begin? By collecting valuable data, you can review how successful you have been in achieving your goals and working towards this purpose.
4. Have diverse ambassadors:
It’s only right that you want your brand and opportunities to be seen in the best way possible. When thinking about who might visit school careers events, or give an office/site tour, it’s important to consider who your audience is. We want to be able to see ourselves and be ourselves at work, and students will want to feel like there are people like them when they enter the world of work.
Ensure you have diverse staff members who can support your outreach strategy and have a mix of different grades. It’s important for students to speak with current apprentices at every opportunity, but they will also appreciate speaking to managers who can share their successes and opportunities for progression.
5. Commit time and resource:
Schools outreach shouldn’t be a nice to have or added extra to somebody’s already busy workload if you want it to succeed. The workload is likely to be quieter when schools are closed for the holidays, but it’s a year-round role. When you’re not actively delivering your outreach and recruiting, you’ll be analysing your data and updating your strategy for the following academic year.
If you don’t have the capacity or resource to do this effectively, why not consider outsourcing this part of your Early Talent strategy to companies such as Cohesion? We can support you in the initial stages of your outreach journey, how best to communicate and build relationships with school or designing material for you to deliver.