How to get school leavers excited about your apprenticeship programme

  • Emma Finamore
  • 20 May 2019

Harnessing the enthusiasm of young people is something all apprentice employers need to get to grips with. But knowing exactly what will do that isn’t straightforward. Here, we reveal what employers really need to focus on .

There are so many options jostling for the attention of school leavers—A-levels, university, the increasing number of apprenticeship programmes available—that it can seem hard to know how to grab their enthusiasm. But our focussed research, speaking to over 32,000 young people over the past five years, shows exactly what they do (and don’t) find appealing about apprenticeships.

The facts

AllAboutSchoolLeavers’ research shows that students consider a range of factors when deciding whether or not to apply for a training programme.

Salary remains the most important factor. Most students (28%) say £5 per hour is the minimum they would expect to be paid as an apprentice or school leaver, with the second highest acceptable wage being £4 per hour.

Other financial issues are important too. On programmes offering university degrees, 65.1% of respondents said earning money during a degree is the most important factor, and having tuition fees covered was 57.3%.

Sector is also important, with 44.5% of respondents citing the specific area of work as something that would persuade them to consider an apprenticeship or school leaver programme.

The chance to gain experience early is also important to young people, both in an apprenticeship role and before taking one on. Our research shows that work experience schemes are the most important factor in convincing school leavers to actually apply for an apprenticeship. 46.5% say it is most likely to change their mind.

Face-to-face engagement is also important when generating enthusiasm in programmes. A further 41.6% say that open days, talks and workshops from employers would help convince them to consider the opportunities available.

School leavers want to know a programme can lead somewhere, too. For example, with programmes that offer full university degrees as part of the scheme, the chance of landing a graduate job afterwards is the most appealing factor: 66.5% of those surveyed said it would persuade them to apply.

Financial matters are important in persuading young people to apply for degree programmes: earning money during a degree is the second most important factor (65.1%) and having tuition fees covered is third (57.3%).

Interestingly, the course on offer is far more critical than the company offering it, or the university at which it will be studied: 77.4% of respondents said “the right course” was the most important factor when choosing a programme that includes a degree, compared with 18.5% focusing on the particular university and just 4.1% on the company offering it.

Social media is fairly unimportant to young people in terms of what they look for in prospective employers—it’s not the factor that gets them excited about applying for apprenticeship programmes. They place more importance on seeing employers at careers events and on careers advice or job websites.

What can employers do?

Salary is one of the most important elements of a programme when it comes to convincing young people to apply. It is worth employers noting when developing apprenticeships that school leavers’ salary expectations are higher than the National Minimum Wage for apprentices, which rose to £3.90 this year. This has increased in importance, overtaking location as the second most important factor, so recruiters would do well to focus mainly on the exciting work trainees can expect to do and the remuneration they will receive in return.

For employers offering degrees as part of their programmes, recruiters to these programmes should emphasise that companies can pay trainees’ tuition fees.

As work experience is such a big factor in convincing school leavers to actually apply for an apprenticeship, employers setting up programmes should consider establishing work experience schemes if they don’t already have them in place. Work experience schemes could act as an effective recruitment stream into their programmes, increase application rates, and ensure that trainees are already enthusiastic about the business and the role they take on.

Young people place a lot of importance on seeing employers at events, so they should consider taking part in these, or setting up their own events, in order to engage properly with school leavers and stoke up enthusiasm in their apprenticeship programmes.

As well as attending careers fairs, employers could deliver talks in schools, offer to deliver CV workshops with classes, or facilitate activities like career ‘speed-dating’ sessions, where young people are designated a set amount of time to speak with employers one-to-one, finding out anything about the business that might interest them.

Employers offering university degrees as part of their programmes should bear in mind how important the particular course is, when it comes to getting young people interested in the programme. Promotional material should focus on the benefits of the specific university degree, and companies should make sure they are offering courses that school leavers actually want to study.

Interestingly, social media isn’t something that gets school leavers excited about apprenticeships. Even though social media is a great chance to project the personality of a brand and engage directly with potential applicants, employers should focus on other elements before this one.

For more detailed research on schools and the methods employers should consider when reaching out to them, visit the AllAboutResearch research hub.

Top Insights

Salary is the most important factor for school leavers considering apprenticeships.

School leavers’ salary expectations are higher than the Apprentice National Minimum Wage.

Social media is fairly unimportant to young people in terms of getting them excited about apprenticeships.

Work experience schemes are the most important factor in convincing school leavers to actually apply for an apprenticeship. 46.5% say it is most likely to change their mind.

Young people place a lot of importance on seeing employers at events.