Of the employers we surveyed in 2018, 78% said they visit schools to engage with students and advertise their programmes to school leavers. Given that one of the Gatsby Benchmarks for careers education obliges schools to provide multiple opportunities for students to interact with employers, this is a reassuring fact.
Generally, the majority of employers that do visit schools are looking to recruit more students to their school leaver programmes. Some of the reasons cited most frequently to explain school visits include a difficulty recruiting in a specific area or for a specific role, the need for a more diverse intake and, broadly, a need for more quality applicants. But despite the time and effort poured into these events, our data suggests that many school visits might not fulfil these goals.
How beneficial is the average school visit for employers?
In 2018, 84% of careers advisers and 100% of headteachers surveyed said their school had been visited by employers. However, in the same survey, only 42% of students made the same claim. One of the most likely explanations for the disparity in these figures is that students were unable to remember the employers that visited them.
This explanation is certainly supported by other data, which suggests that students are generally quite bad at recalling employers. Out of thousands of respondents, only a handful were able to recall specific employer brands off the top of their heads when asked in another survey. As one headteacher explained: “Quite often students don’t remember the brand that’s been visiting; they just remember the experience they had… Sometimes they don’t remember the name of their geography teacher!"
But despite poor recall by students, most employers set aside a lot of time and money to engage with school leavers. In 2017, employers spent an average of £6,636 on 33 school visits, with almost a third of companies spending more than £25,000 a year reaching out to students. At first glance—given the cost and many students’ inability to remember visiting organisations—it doesn’t seem like the average school visit is exceptionally profitable for either group.
What employers can do to engage with students more successfully
Currently, school visits do not seem to happen often enough or be memorable enough to students. One of the oldest concepts in marketing states that it takes an average of seven interactions with a brand before a prospect will take action to engage with the product or service. To simply visit a school more times is neither practical nor cost-effective. However, there are several other ways that employers can make school visits more likely to accomplish their goals.
One of the easiest ways to make school visits more memorable is, ironically, to move them away from schools. Hosting a few in-office employer events for school leavers is much more likely to make sure those in attendance actually remember the name of your organisation—particularly if you can get parents to attend as well. Engaging with schools outside of a school setting rather than limiting yourself to visiting schools will have a greater impact.
Likewise, your school visits and events must be relatable and convincing to school leavers. 26% of parents think their child is “too smart” to do an apprenticeship, and with many apprenticeships being relatively new, many school leavers don’t take to them straight away. It’s important to convince parents and students that apprenticeships are an excellent route by showing them examples of people who are thriving that they can relate to—for example, current apprentices.
It’s similarly important to engage with school leavers in a language that they can understand. As one careers adviser explained, students often think in terms of school subjects; it’s much more effective to tell students that they’d like a certain apprenticeship if they like maths than to give them a job title and a description of the role. Creating promotional materials that speak in the way school leavers think is much more likely to effectively engage them and make your visit worthwhile.
As mentioned before, it’s unlikely that students will remember you from a single school visit, so it’s crucial to find ways to supplement your visit with other ways of staying in the minds of school leavers. It could be as simple as handing out brochures and careers magazines, or you could look for ways to build a lasting relationship with a school—for instance, by setting up a work shadowing scheme for a few students. In our 2014 survey, 88% of schools were open to setting up shadowing schemes with employers.
Finally—and most importantly—making a school visit successful means targeting the right students. This means finding the young people that are genuinely interested in what you do, that qualified for your programmes and that match the kind of intake that you want. For instance, if your apprenticeship programme has very few female applicants, you might choose to target only girls. Or, if you don’t have enough quality applicants for a programme, you might pre-screen candidates based on your selection criteria. Speaking to a small room of likely applicants is much more effective than speaking to an entire year of students, where the majority might not be very interested.
At AllAboutGroup, we have been running engagement events on behalf of employers for years. Before school events, we work with the 3,000 schools and colleges in our network to help you find the perfect candidates, pre-screening them according to your selection criteria prior to events. We know what makes a good school visit, how to make students remember you and how to find attendees for your events that are interview-ready.
School visits are an excellent way to engage with potential apprentices, but they are rarely cost-effective unless they reach out to the right students and are likely to be remembered. For more detailed information on school engagement and the best ways to reach out to students, get in touch.