So you're thinking of hiring apprentices? Or maybe you're gearing up for your next intake? With over a decade of experience inspiring, engaging and hiring socially diverse school-leavers, we've got the process down to a fine art. We're sharing the ideal timeline for a strategic approach to apprentice-recruitment, so you have the best chance at discovering hard-to-reach talent.

June Onwards: Planning

If you want to bring on apprentices in September, the earlier you can start planning for the year ahead, the better. Before you even think about reaching out to young people, you need to be clear on a few things:

  • What roles are you hiring for (and how many?)
  • Where will they be based?
  • What will you pay your apprentices?
  • What skills are you looking for (and do you want particular grades?)

The success of your recruitment process relies on a shared vision and effective collaboration. Spend time over the Summer to get aligned with the relevant people in your team so you all have a really clear picture of who you're looking for.

September to November: Outreach and Attraction

If you want to reach socially-diverse young people, you need to build relationships with relevant schools. All great partnerships are based on trust, so make sure you put in the face-time with school influencers - Headteachers, Heads of Sixth Form, Careers Leaders - to see how you can support their students.

It's best to start outreach early in the school year while students are still making decisions about their future - you want to offer them a viable and appealing alternative to university, before they start filling out UCAS applications. Plus, doing it before any exams means they'll have more bandwidth.

Remember: Schools have a different setup to businesses, so be prepared to adapt to how they work. They often need more touchpoints, so be prepared to reach out often and don't give up after the first email. Also think about when you're trying to reach them - during the school day is probably not a great time.

Once you've forged partnerships, there are loads of ways to start building your employer brand. You could organise insight days where students find out what it's like to work in different sectors, with opportunities to ask questions and get in-person advice. You could host CV workshops, one-on-one or group career coaching, or talks from your organisation to help them gather the know-how they need to stand out to employers. The idea at this stage is to give school-leavers a greater understanding of their career options - and for you to become an employer of choice in the process.

At Visionpath, we have a unique formula to find those schools where you can reach more socially-diverse students who could benefit most from your opportunities, helping you to move the dial on social mobility. Our reputation as a trusted partner among schools across the country and our deep understanding of how to work with them makes us an invaluable ally for employers at this stage of the process.

December to January: Assessment

With UCAS deadlines in January, it's a time when students are in a future-focused mindset. If you've already put the effort into outreach and attraction, at this stage, you'll be well-placed to start building your talent pool and seeing who has potential.

When building your talent pool, talk to young people who've applied, even if it's just by phone. You want to give all school leavers a fair chance to show what they can bring to your business, regardless of what grades alone might suggest. In the interests of being inclusive and approachable, think of it as screening in, not screening out.

Next comes assessment. When dealing with socially-diverse young people, you need to think outside the box - exam-style processes aren't necessarily the most inclusive. Think about creating an immersive experience where you help young people learn about your business, what it's like to work for you and develop skills like communication, teamwork and problem-solving. They'll come out better equipped for their future career, while you'll get to see who has the skills and attributes you're looking for. 

Top tip: Throughout your assessment process, make sure you're totally transparent about how things work and what happens next. Make sure candidates have a clear pathway in their mind and know exactly what to expect at every stage, and give tailored feedback to people who don't make it through.

February to July: Pipeline Development

Once you've got a shortlist, you can help candidates continue developing by pairing them with one of your colleagues for regular mentoring. The great thing about working with talent at this stage is you get to shape them for life. You have the opportunity to help them figure out what they want to do, help them fill any knowledge and skills gaps, and make an informed career decision (even if it's not with your business). Plus, mentors get to develop new skills and capabilities too, so it's a win-win.

Another way to help young people flourish in their future careers is by offering work insight programmes where they have the chance to experience what life in your business could be like. You could even give them role models by getting leaders to give talks or hold workshops. Not only do they get an idea of the sort of role or industry they might be suited to, you also get the chance to show off your company culture and help candidates to see themselves working with you.

Heads-up: You'd be wise to give students some space in June so they can focus on exams. It can be a stressful time, so it's best to avoid overloading them with more commitments. Just check-in and be there for them if needed.

August to September: Hiring and Onboarding

By August you'll have limited opportunity for face-to-face time with students because they're not in school, so by this point you want to have gathered all the insight you need for the screening and selection process. Aim to make offers by mid-August when they get their final grades, so young people have all their options in front of them when it comes to making that life changing decision about what to do next.

Don't miss out: Some employers make apprenticeship offers from May onwards, so if you've spotted top talent you want to bring into your business, it could be worth making conditional offers early - before someone else snaps them up!

Come September, it's time to onboard your new hires. This part of the process often gets overlooked, but it's absolutely vital if you want your untapped talent to stick around. Make sure you have a structured plan in place for their first 100 days to set up your relationship for success, think about the pastoral support you might need to give, and also consider how you might need to support young people before they get their first pay cheque. Can they afford to travel to work in that first month?

If you're feeling ultra-organised, now is the perfect time to start getting in front of the next year of students - just like you would with soon-to-be graduates. The more exposure they have to your business, the more likely they are to consider a career with you. There's no time like the present!

Of course, this is just an example of what the ideal hiring cycle might look like. At Visionpath we're responsive and adaptable - whatever your lead time, we can help you inspire, engage and hire socially-diverse school leavers. From end-to-end solutions to more targeted support on a specific challenge, we have a flexible and tailored approach. What's more, our programmes have won awards like Best Apprenticeship Programme at the 2022 Learning Awards, as well as helping clients rank in the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For.

Want to find out more? Check out how we work with employers or get in touch.

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