The school leaver market is evolving. With the government committed to delivering three million apprenticeships by 2020 and a record number of 872,000 enrolled apprentices in the UK right now, training schemes are offering school leavers the opportunity to enter sectors that were once reserved for university graduates only. The challenge is ensuring those who influence school leavers are championing the benefits.
When explaining the benefits of apprenticeships to parents and teachers, I always use my twin brother and myself as an example. After completing our A-Levels, I chose to go to university and secure a 2:1 History degree while he pro-actively found another route to take as an apprentice engineer for Airbus. Now, five years later, he is more financially stable having sidestepped student debt, has a mortgage, a career progression plan and a very specific skill set. I, on the other hand, still have the burden of student debt, lost three years of on-the-job training while I completed my degree and have only just moved from home into rented accommodation because of financial necessity. While I stand by my decision to go to university, there is a lot to be said for taking the alternative route – but educating those who influence school leavers about the apprenticeship option isn’t easy as it goes against the options available to them when they were 18.
Our annual School Leaver Career Confidence Report 2015 highlights a variety of areas in which the school leaver knowledge base is still lacking, reflecting the work we, as employers and advisors, need to do in order to fully educate this market on their opportunities.
Milkround School Leavers Career Confidence Report 2015
Out of the 2,500 16-18 year olds surveyed, 79% of them said that the future option they hear most about in school or college is university. This is a vast proportion of respondents, however unsurprising when schools are still being measured and assessed on their university conversion rate.
Encouragingly, however, over a third of our respondents said that they thought an apprenticeship would be their next career step over going to university. This is an increase of 20% from the previous year, highlighting how students are much more open to the idea of pursuing an alternative route. School leavers can also be seen to apply for a variety of opportunities in a variety of sectors: unlike graduates, school leavers have a tendency to be unclear of which their preferred sector to work in would be.
How are employers tackling the school leaver market?
We know that a one-size-fits-all approach does not work when influencing the youth market as a whole. School leavers are far less likely to sit at a desktop computer to search for career opportunities in comparison to graduates. A different approach for school leavers is needed, which is why we introduced our School Leaver Employability Fairs- just one of the ways employers can directly reach students, teachers and careers advisers face-to-face. Ashton Turner, HR Administrator from accountancy firm Crowe Clark Whitehill, comments:
‘We have been looking at the best ways to reach students and encourage them to apply for school leaver positions such as our ICAEW CFAB training programme…A great way to broach the market has been to build working relationships with teachers and careers advisors and look to attend careers events within the schools, sixth forms and colleges themselves. This was one of the most beneficial parts of exhibiting at the recent Milkround School Leavers event as we spoke with several teachers and careers advisors who were keen to set up direct links with companies.’
We still have a way to go in pin pointing the most effective methods to recruit 16-18 year olds into schemes and apprenticeships. However, here are some key factors not to be ignored:
- Get face-to-face with students. Talking to them in person at employability fairs is the best way to educate them about your school leaver opportunities. You will also get the chance to educate teachers and careers advisors too
- Have a social media presence. Over one third of respondents to our School Leaver Career Confidence survey suggested social media is their preferred way to hear about job and career opportunities, making it a crucial platform to be present and active on
- Acknowledge for school leaver influencers. Make sure you cater to teachers and parents on your careers website, fully explaining the benefits of taking this opportunity for their child or student
- Use appropriate language in your literature. Turner mentions how it is a ‘balancing act of maintaining our core values of professionalism, integrity and quality whilst advertising roles that will appeal to a younger job market.’