Apprenticeships: school leavers expectations vs realities

  • Anna Vall Navés
  • 17 October 2019

Attracting school leavers to your apprenticeship programmes can be difficult, particularly when the realities of the apprenticeship market don’t match their expectations. So, what exactly are school leavers’ expectations when it comes to apprenticeships, and how can you either meet or compromise on them to retain talent?

As we have discussed in other articles, the programmes that are most sought out by apprentices are not always the ones most readily available to them. The reality of the apprenticeship market—and particularly the industries that offer the most apprenticeships—do not always overlap with what school leavers want. And this not only reflected in the kinds of apprenticeships available; it is also reflected in other more pragmatic concerns, like salary expectations. So what is it exactly that school leavers expect?

School leavers’ apprenticeship expectations

Over the past few years, we collected information on the factors most likely to make apprenticeships an appealing option to school leavers, and according to our research, salary is one of the most important ones. In 2016, we asked school leavers what would influence them to apply for a school leaver programme or apprenticeship. 68.5% of respondents said pay would convince them to apply, which made it the most popular out of all of the options (which included factors like location, area of work and company size).

When it comes to salary, however, most school leavers do not consider the minimum wage—now £3.90 per hour—to be enough. When we asked students the minimum they would expect to be paid as apprentices in 2017, most students (28%) expected at least £5 per hour. The second wage most often deemed to be acceptable was £4 per hour (22%), but many school leavers also expected to be paid £6 per hour (14%) or more. In total, then, about 90% of students expect to be paid more than the National Minimum Wage, whether that means £4 or £10 per hour.

Career progression and employability are also (unsurprisingly) crucial concerns for most school leavers. In terms of sponsored degrees, for instance, the most appealing factor for most respondents (68.8%) was the likelihood of landing a graduate job right after the programme. The majority of school leavers would expect a school leaver programme to make them more employable and give them a better chance of finding a desirable job.

Finally, many school leavers also care about the area of work and location of school leaver programmes. In 2016, area of work and location would convince 44.5% and 41.8% of school leavers to apply for an apprenticeship respectively, coming as the second and third most important factors in that survey (after salary). The conclusion we can draw from this survey is that many school leavers expect to work in a field that genuinely interests them and that many also expect not to have to commute far or to work in a region they deem appealing.

How can employers’ meet their apprentices’ expectations?

School leavers’ expectations when it comes to apprenticeships will not always be realistic, but it is important to keep apprentices satisfied with your programmes in order to retain talent (and attract more talent, too). So, while it may not be realistic for your company to pay apprentices £10 per hour, paying apprentices minimum wage is unlikely to make your programme very popular among school leavers. 

For the same reasons, it is important that you take other concerns voiced by school leavers seriously too. Career progression matters to many school leavers, so mapping out their potential progress within the company—both at recruitment events and once they are working with you—is essential. This could be in the form of regular meetings (formal or otherwise) to discuss their progress at the company, for instance. 

When it comes to the location or area of work, you might not always be able to cater to what school leavers want. However, if you have several locations, or if you can slightly personalise your programme to a school leaver’s interests within the industry, it is likely to go a long way in making your apprentices satisfied with your programme. 

Regardless of the strategy you decide to implement, knowing what your apprentices want from their experience is crucial to the success of your programme. At AllAboutGroup, we help employers make their programmes more valued by apprentices through our benchmarking services. We use both impartial audits and anonymised surveys to help you find out what is working and what needs improvement in your programme. We then create detailed benchmarking reports and help you generate a plan to improve.

Your apprentices’ expectations will play an important role in their satisfaction with your programmes. We can help you understand what these expectations are and how they might be met. For more detailed information on what we do, or for help improving your school leaver programmes, contact us here.