Working with local schools is the surest route to success for employers when they are recruiting apprentices. That was the key message of the final event rounding off this year’s Leeds Manufacturing Festival.
“Modern apprenticeships offer a much wider route into work and are a tremendously valuable way for a company to develop its own staff” says Graeme Hall, chief executive officer of Brandon Medical.
Around a third of the company’s 75 employees have come through some form of apprenticeship, including clerical and administrative, marketing and finance, as well as more traditional trade apprenticeships.
“The difficulty is in finding suitable candidates,” Graeme adds, “and we’ve decided to concentrate on two or three schools to get to know the kids, get them to come and see what we do, what the place is like and the range of opportunities we offer. That’s worked much better for us.”
From a financial point of view, there’s never been a better time for employers to bring young blood into their businesses. Funding for employers taking on apprentices has been doubled to £3,000 up to the end of September.
Employers can also take advantage of the Kickstart programme, which covers the costs of employing a young job seeker for the first six months. And placements can ultimately be converted into apprenticeships if they prove successful.
Leeds City Council’s Employment & Skills team provide a range of practical support for employers, including identifying the right apprenticeship standard, external training providers and accessing financial support.
However, the key to making apprenticeships work for your business lies in getting the right candidate and many employers find that comes from engaging with schools.
James Whybrow, associate director at RSM, a sponsor of the Leeds Manufacturing Festival, points out that, nationally, only two-thirds of apprenticeships that start actually finish.
“Apprenticeships are an ideal way to develop the skills of existing staff and a great vehicle to help support and develop new recruits. However, it is key that apprenticeship strategies are not be considered in isolation, with the most successful apprenticeship programmes connected to the workforce, talent or learning and development strategies.
“Employers need to think about how they select apprentices, the support that’s provided for apprentices, and how you get the best value from your training provider, from the time, money and investment you make as a company.”
Anne Powley, Careers Enrichment and Engagement Leader at Roundhay School, and her team run a year-round programme of events supported by employers to bring the world of work into school.
“We’re keen to work with employers across all sectors to ignite young people’s interest and we’ve learned that you have to work particularly hard with students and parents to inform them and build confidence in apprenticeships.”
Cath Black HR director at Crossgates-based jukebox manufacturer Sound Leisure said: “We’re a hidden industry for many young people and we need to make both our companies and the career opportunities we offer better know.”