Social distancing requirements have impacted on many aspects of our working lives. Even now, many workplaces remain closed, with staff working from home. But this does not mean that you have to put your apprenticeship recruitment on hold. From August, the government will be offering employers who hire a new young apprentice aged 16 to 24 a bonus grant of £2,000, while those that hire new apprentices aged 25 and over will receive £1,500, so this is a great time to start thinking about apprenticeship recruitment to reboot or grow your business. Even when strict lockdown measures were in place, Damar Training continued to recruit apprentices for some of our key partner-employers and we have learnt many lessons that other employers can benefit from.
In this article, we are sharing some tips and advice on how to ensure that your apprenticeship recruitment complies with social distancing requirements. We are also sharing two case studies of how this has worked in practice: a law firm aiming to recruit six apprentices and a public sector levy payer recruiting up to 120 apprentices.
For some time, the main platform for advertising job vacancies has been online. A quick Google search for apprenticeship vacancies immediately directs candidates to the government’s Find an Apprenticeship website, where people can apply for vacancies with many different colleges, training providers and employers.
Recent events are likely to even have a positive effect on apprenticeship recruitment, as there will be a strong candidate base of people looking for apprenticeships, either because they don’t want to go to university or they are out of employment. This provides a great opportunity for employers to appoint a high quality candidate to their role.
Engaging with Applicants
Whilst some apprenticeship providers have historically held face-to-face screening interviews with applicants, this can work just as effectively via phone and video conferencing. During this time period, we have also been able to use text messaging fair more effectively. Younger people don’t always check their email accounts on a regular basis so a quick text to these candidates to tell them to go and look at their emails has had a very positive effective on applicant engagement. Giving applicants the option to answer texts is another good option to getting very quick feedback.
Conducting Interviews and Assessments
Damar Training have facilitated and supported many interviews and assessments over the last few months. This has ranged from setting up telephone interviews with employers and applicants to conducting complex group assessments and observations via Microsoft Teams or Zoom. Despite some initial trepidation, these have all actually run very smoothly and effectively. In some cases, conducting these assessments online, rather than bringing in applicants for face-to-face sessions has resulted in considerable time efficiencies and we have been able to process and assess many more candidates in a short space of time. Even when social distancing requirements lessen in the future, we will continue to encourage employers to consider how they might interview and assess using video conferencing platforms.
Case Study 1: Law Firm Recruiting Six Apprentices
Irwin Mitchell has a clear desire to support their early careers talent, as well as looking to the future. They had opportunities for apprentices as we went into lockdown and recognised how important it was to provide these roles to maintain a core influx of talent for the future. Their recruitment process had always been done face-to-face so we had to look at ways to adapt and for candidates to undertake the assessments virtually. We were able to support with solutions to the challenges which Irwin Mitchell went on to implement. Undertaking the assessments virtually also ensured that candidates did not have to wait as long for the outcome of their application.
They have already made a number of offers, with the successful candidates to start over the coming months.
Feedback from one of the candidates was: “The process for the recruitment ran smoothly considering the circumstances! It was a bit daunting having to take part in an interview via the laptop however it was a good experience and it worked well. I was familiar with Microsoft Teams however on the day there was a bit of a technical fault but both interviewers helped me iron out my issues and the interview was able to continue! It has been really interesting having my recruitment done remotely and I think it has been overall a good, well run experience.”
Case Study 2: Public Sector Levy Payer Recruiting Over 100 Apprentices
We regularly recruit business administration apprentices for a public sector levy payer. In June, it was agreed that recruitment for the September cohort would go ahead, despite the country still being in lockdown. We advertised the vacancy on Get My First Job and also reached out to community groups, schools and colleges on email and social media, to ensure that we generated applicants from a diverse range of backgrounds.
After some shortlisting of the written applications, the first stage of the recruitment process was getting applicants to complete online BKSB English, maths and ICT assessments. We communicated with applicants on email, and followed this up with text messages (and phone calls where necessary) to make sure that we maximised engagement and supported anyone who had limited access to IT facilities.
The next stage was a group assessment which applicants booked themselves onto via Eventbrite. We held 48 assessments on Zoom, with members of the Damar team facilitating each group. The assessments involved a group task observation and a written activity that the applicants completed during the assessment and then sent to us via email for grading.
The final stage was interviews, which were conducted by panels consisting of a representative from Damar and the employer, which were also run on Zoom.
We have been able to successfully engage with hundreds of candidates in a very short space of time and are confident that we will be able to place some really great individuals into these roles over the following weeks and months.