Last month, the Government published its draft legislation on the introduction of the apprenticeship levy. The draft confirmed that from April 2017, employers with a wage bill of more than £3m will have to pay a 0.5% levy to fund apprenticeships.

It is hoped the levy will raise around £3bn for the Exchequer to spend on boosting the quantity and quality of apprenticeships. Employers who pay the levy will receive a £15,000 allowance to offset the payment of the levy, which will be paid in vouchers to spend in an online portal, known as the Digital Apprenticeship Service.

In essence, the levy is working on the principle that the more apprentices a levy-paying employer takes on, the more state-funded training will be made available. This could have benefits for recruiters who take on young workers in high volume recruitment drives.

Emerging talent recruitment, such as apprenticeship schemes, is unique. Often the volume of applications can be high and the process is different to the stages used for ordinary recruitment to a single post. Employers will have to be responsible for ensuring they make the most of the incentive, which effectively runs under a ‘use it or lose it’ principle.

Talent hiring of this sort cannot be rushed however. Before an employer can proceed with spending this ‘virtual’ money, it will be important to have robust recruitment systems embedded to help  ensure that  the inevitable significant boost in interest from apprentices up and down the country is balanced with the need to ensure a high quality workforce intake that fits the company values and can prosper semi-independently. This is all the more important given the levy is tied to terms and conditions including a need  for schemes to last a minimum of 12 months and involve at least 20% off-the-job training. Getting this wrong could easily become a case of the tail wagging the dog.

Good recruitment tools will help deal with volume recruitment of this nature, so candidates can be filtered through the stages – typically sourcing, selecting and hiring – which should help with creating a strong pool of talent to choose from. WCN has seen the importance of this in place first hand, having implemented hundreds of systems over the past twenty years and continuing to work with the world’s leading graduate recruiters, including Credit Suisse who received the award for ‘Best Graduate Corporate Site’ at 2012’s Onrec Awards following implementation of WCN’s EmergingTalent solution.

Clients tell us that to deal with the challenge of handling such large volumes of interest from youngsters looking to get a foot in the door, it is important that they have a recruitment solution that can be rapidly implemented helping to achieve the greatest business outcomes. The levy is intended to push the quality of apprenticeships up so that they are considered a viable alternative to university and help to address worsening skills gaps in the UK workforce. For this to be achievable, however, employers will need to be able to match the benefits outlined in the Digital Apprenticeship Service portal in order to help ensure greater engagement with prospective candidates that will help determine if an apprentice is actually a good match for the company or not.

At WCN, we have used EmergingTalent to help employers deal with the huge interest that comes around annually from university, college, school and MBA graduates – as well as internships and apprenticeship schemes. Through liaison with clients, we know that young candidates can easily get frustrated by the amount of time it takes to get hired after their initial application and the lack of communication during their journey.

It is important therefore that systems are built that recognise the inherent value on offer from emerging talent using applicant-friendly interfaces with communication touchpoints at every stage. Such technology helps to not only attract and hire the best young talent – which helps to drive real change in organisations – but also accelerates and improves the entire recruitment process.

It is only through continuous innovation that employers can create more meaningful and engaging experiences for candidates and brands. The Apprenticeship Levy is enabling employers to have more control over purchasing decisions. Support needs to be provided that offers recruiters an at-a-glance management of screening, interviews and assessments, events and on-boarding. Virtualisation techniques can also help candidates to feel empowered and build brand advocacy using simple methods such as booking preferred interview slots or taking assessment tests at a time that suits them. For larger volumes, this could include consideration of multimedia tools, such as video interviewing or games-based testing.

Innovation in communications & computing intelligence as well as the new era where millennials become the dominant workforce mean the way we hire must adapt – the recruiting process has to become more customer centric as the new generation of job seekers want to be in control of their own career.

Good candidates aren’t looking for a job, they don’t want just a salary. They want training, advancement and a work experience that leads to new things. These are all things that the Apprenticeships Levy could help to bring to fruition if adapted properly.

That being said, there are still many questions yet to be answered and businesses remain understandably critical of another tax being introduced onto the bills of the largest firms. It is not, for example, completely clear how this scheme could address the existing skills gaps and meet the shortfall of talent in the UK. Nor is it obvious what would stop a profit-making businesses seeking to neutralise the cost of this tax by creating a separate programme

Emerging talent needs to be taken seriously. This can’t just be a shortcut to the government achieving its three million apprentices target by 2020. Large businesses will give up interest if it isn’t easy for them to get back what they put in, or more pertinently, if volume recruitment of young employees becomes a task too tough to deal with in the long-term.

Charles, a graduate from Oxford University, is founder and managing director of WCN Plc and has worked with many large- and small-sized organisations across a wide variety of industry sectors on e-Recruitment. Some of the organisations he has worked with, among many others, are Marks & Spencer, Barclays, IBM, PWC, HM Revenues & Customs and The Home Office. Charles established WCN in 1995 funding it from his previous business, Analysis & Supplies, until the floatation of WCN on the stock market in 2000. Prior to this Charles worked for 5 years in Europe, Asia and the US as a management consultant with Booz Allen & Hamilton supporting leading global organisations in developing their business strategies. Charles also regularly speaks at seminars and conferences about best practice in e-Recruitment. As CEO, Charles is responsible for the day-to-day running of WCN. He is also part of the remuneration sub-committee.