How is apprentice recruitment changing?

  • Anna Vall Navés
  • 08 April 2020

As more and more employers turn to recruiting school leavers for their newly-introduced apprenticeship programmes, they are having to change their recruitment practices to match. So, from candidate testing to outsourcing, how are employers adapting their recruitment efforts to engage the best school leaver talent?

In 2019, 60% of the employers we surveyed told AllAboutResearch that they received more apprenticeship applications than in the previous year. And, on average, employers received 1,112 applications to their apprenticeship programmes in 2019. There is no doubt that apprenticeships are becoming an increasingly popular school leaver option; and given their benefits to both apprentices and businesses, this is good news. 

However, the increased number of applications poses a new challenge for employers: having to sort through a plethora of qualified candidates. So how are employers adapting to ensure that their recruitment process is fair, time-efficient, and appropriately tailored to school leavers?

How are employers assessing school leavers to select the best apprentices?

Although employers are tackling this challenge differently, our research did reveal some general trends in how apprenticeship recruitment is changing to adapt to growing numbers of applicants and their unique needs. Some of the biggest changes we found were related to the selection tasks and tests that candidates have to take. 

When we asked employers in 2017 whether they used any form of psychometric testing in their recruitment, 48% said yes. In 2019, this number was up to 57%. This increase suggests that more employers are turning to this form of standardised testing as an efficient way to screen candidates. However, a closer look at the types of psychometric testing being used highlights more interesting shifts in how companies are accommodating school leavers in their recruitment. 

In 2017, 90% of employers used ability testing (such as numerical and verbal reasoning tests) in their recruitment of apprentices. In 2019, this number was down to 70%. Personality and values testing also dropped to 12% from 25% in 2017. In the meantime, however, more companies began to include situational judgment (35%) and inductive reasoning (24%) in their assessments, with 24% also claiming that they used other forms of assessment. 

Farrah Beveridge, senior advisor for national trainee recruitment at RSM UK, explained some of these changes in companies’ psychometric testing. She said that most school leavers do not have a lot of experience, and as a result, paper-based numerical and verbal reasoning tests did not make a lot of sense and were becoming outdated. Values and personality testing seemed to often give RSM “clones”, as opposed to the diverse recruits with varied perspectives that the company was looking for. Rather than tiring and long competency-based assessment centres, which risked putting off potential candidates, RSM now conducts engaging strengths-based assessments for apprentices.

Additionally, when asked if they used video interviewing in their candidate recruitment in 2019, half of employers said they did. Michelle Tunney, apprenticeship manager at BCLP, said that video and telephone screening was a vital part of their selection. However, she emphasised the need to tailor interviews and exercises to school leavers, noting that BCLP allows candidates to prepare for some set questions beforehand, because some candidates may have never done an interview before. She also underscored, as did Beveridge, that what mattered was the collective result of how candidates did in the different parts of the selection process.

Are many employers outsourcing parts of their apprentice recruitment?

Despite the fact that apprenticeship applications are on the rise, 60% of employers do not outsource any part of their selection and assessment, according to our 2019 research. Among the 40% of employers that do outsource their recruitment, screening applications and media planning and buying are the parts of the application most frequently outsourced. Employers only rarely outsource functions like conducting assessment centres and none outsource face-to-face interviews. What this seems to suggest is that employers generally like to have control in the later stages of recruitment, when offers are most likely to be made. 

However, employers cited a variety of different reasons for wanting to outsource parts of their recruitment process. Most employers outsource parts of the process in order to save time and resources, with 50% citing this as their main reason. 31% also cite the belief that external providers have more expertise in particular areas as a reason, while others mentioned other factors like cost saving. 

There can be many benefits to outsourcing parts of recruitment, even if most employers understandably like to supervise its final stages. At AllAboutGroup, we have a large team of HR professionals with specialised knowledge of every part of recruitment, able to assist in everything from screening candidates to onboarding. Helping you save time and manage your resources, our outsourced recruitment solutions can be extremely useful in sorting through large numbers of qualified candidates. 

Additionally, our team can help you analyse and improve the performance of your apprentice recruitment. Recruiting school leavers is not the same as recruiting graduates, and AllAboutGroup can help tailor recruitment processes to school leavers’ requirements and experience levels, across all industry sectors. We help create various kinds of psychometric tests for potential apprentices—from reasoning to gamified assessments—and can help design and deliver assessment centres that are both engaging to candidates and useful to employers’ selection efforts. 

If you’d like more information about the services we provide, or if you’d like to know more about the changing landscape of apprentice recruitment, please do not hesitate to get in touch here.