Desirable vs. available apprenticeships: is there an overlap?

  • Anna Vall Navés
  • 19 September 2019

Apprenticeship starts have seen an overall growth of over 75% since 2009/10, but the sectors that have experienced the greatest growth have not necessarily been the most desirable to school leavers. We take a look at the expectations and realities of the school leaver market and at the options available to employers to make their apprenticeships more attractive.

Although apprenticeship starts have generally increased in recent years, the market’s growth has not been even, with certain sectors and types of apprenticeships experiencing significantly greater growth than others. Unfortunately, the fields with the most available apprenticeships are not always those that school leavers find the most appealing. This means many employers in sectors with a low demand might have to find new ways to market their apprenticeships to attract talented school leavers.

What kinds of apprenticeships do school leavers find the most appealing?

When we asked school leavers to rank the top five industries they would like to work in from a list, we found that five industries stood out above the rest. The most desired industry was Health, Public Services and Care, with 42% of respondents voting for it. This sector was followed by Arts, Media and Publishing (38%); Science and Mathematics (36%); Business, Administration and Law (35%), and finally, Education and Training (35%). Industries like Construction and Engineering got a significantly lower proportion of the vote. 

When it comes to the types of apprenticeships that are in greatest demand among students, it seems that Higher Apprenticeships—particularly Degree Apprenticeships—are experiencing the largest increase. While Google searches for both kinds of apprenticeships have increased since 2012, Advanced Apprenticeship searches (initially the more popular type) were overtaken by Higher Apprenticeships at the end of 2013. Following this trend, Degree Apprenticeship searches have also increased in popularity, becoming the most-searched-for query out of all apprenticeship types. It seems that the popularity of apprenticeships aimed at those leaving school after GCSE is diminishing, while there is an increased demand for higher-level and degree-level qualifications. 

Do school leavers’ expectations match up to the realities of the market?

While this was not always the case, students had a tendency to overestimate the number of opportunities available in the industries that they preferred. For instance, 30% of students believed Science and Mathematics was one of the industries offering the most opportunities to school leavers, while in reality there were only 500 apprenticeship starts in this industry in 2015 (compared to 143,190 in Business, Law and Administration). The one clear exception to this rule was healthcare, where 40% of students believed this industry was among the ones offering the most opportunities to school leavers. It is in fact one of the biggest apprenticeship sectors and has been growing in recent years.

In terms of the kinds of apprenticeships available, there seems to be much more interest in Higher and Degree Apprenticeships than there are actually programmes available. While interest in Degree Apprenticeships has skyrocketed in recent years, only 36,100 apprenticeship starts (out of 491,300 in total) were Higher Apprenticeships in 2016/17. 

How can employers make their apprenticeships more attractive?

The disparity between what school leavers want and the apprenticeships that are actually available means that employers in less popular industries (including in fields such as construction or engineering) may struggle to attract the talented school leavers that they need to their programmes. And while one way to attract more talent may be to try to offer Higher and Degree apprenticeships if possible, a more feasible way for many employers to do this may simply be to find alternative ways to make their apprenticeships stand out.

One of the most effective ways to do this is to reach out to students and explain face-to-face the unique benefits of your apprenticeship programmes (salary, employment opportunities, the chance to take on various jobs or roles, etc). To make your interactions with students as productive as possible, it’s best to pre-screen students attending your events; it’s much more effective to speak to a small room of probable applicants than to a large room of disinterested students. At AllAboutGroup, we’ve been doing this for years. We help employers run all sorts of engagement events (such as in-office employer events) by sourcing the best attendees and helping you ensure they remember you. 

Additionally, we can help you analyse and improve your apprenticeship programme to make it as attractive as possible to school leavers. Using our benchmarking services, employers can identify the parts of their programme that may need improvement and fix them in order to make their apprenticeships more desirable—regardless of the sector they’re in. Through anonymised surveys and impartial audits of apprenticeships, we create detailed benchmarking reports and help employers devise a plan to improve. 

When your industry is not among the most in-demand for school leavers, it can be difficult to attract talent to your company—making it essential for your apprenticeship programmes to stand out. For more detailed information on the school leaver market and ways to improve your school leaver programmes, get in touch here.