‘Ditch the jargon if you want to attract school leavers to apply for apprenticeships’ – that was the advice to businesses from education leaders.
The message was delivered at the annual Chesterfield and North Derbyshire Employability and Skills Conference where it was revealed that young people aged under 19 accounted for only a quarter of all apprenticeship starts in the UK.
With more than 14,000 young people in Chesterfield and North Derbyshire set to leave school over the next five years, the conference looked to address the barriers to apprenticeships. It brought together business leaders and representatives from the education sector as well as pupils from years 11 – 13 from schools in the region.
Speaking at the conference, Dr Emma Dando, Careers Lead at St Mary’s Catholic School in Chesterfield, said: “The simple fact is that it is easier to make a college and university application. Many 15 – 18-year-olds are put off applying for apprenticeships because they don’t understand the terminology that many companies use in their job adverts. They feel intimated.”
She advised that employers could learn from politicians when writing job adverts for apprenticeship vacancies. “Persuasive language is key,” added Dr Dando. “Young people are keen to know about progression routes, how formal learning fits into the job role and what a typical day will look like.”
Dr Dando also advised employers to consider including information about the catering facilities in the workplace, public transport links, parking and the environment they’ll be working in within job adverts.
“These are all important factors for a young person who has very little or no experience of a workplace environment. Failure to include this information in job adverts could put them off applying.”
Organised by Chesterfield Borough Council, Gail Widerman of Placing Futures, D2N2 Enterprise Advisor Network and Destination Chesterfield, almost 100 people attended the annual conference which was held at Ringwood Hall Hotel & Spa on Wednesday 13 February.
In addition to St Mary’s Catholic High School, speakers at the sell-out event included representatives from Capgemini, Brookfield School and Brendan Kelly, Managing Director of Heathcotes Group.
Speaking at the event Mr Kelly credited the introduction of the Apprentice Levy with helping the business nearly double apprentice starts over the last five years. Since 2013 the Heathcotes Group has recruited 568 apprentices.
He commented: “Attracting the next generation of talented and dedicated care professionals requires us to connect and engage on an emotional level, rather than get preoccupied with technical detail and lose the essence of who we are and what we do.
“In recent years we have promoted an accessible and inspirational message, based on the fact that our work is enormously fulfilling because it makes a difference to the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in society. It has certainly proved to be more effective than more traditional and formulaic approaches to recruitment.
“Based on our experience in recruitment and apprenticeships, the young workforce is less concerned with specifics – they respond better to a broader perception of employers that support their career progression, invest in their future and celebrate the value of the work they do.”
Supporting businesses in their apprentice recruitment efforts, in 2018 Chesterfield became the first town in the UK to declare itself an ‘Apprentice Town’.
Led by Chesterfield Borough Council the Apprentice Town initiative aims to raise awareness of apprenticeships and promote cooperative working across the education, business and learning community.
Councillor Tricia Gilby, Chesterfield Borough Council’s leader, said: “One of the council’s top priorities is improving the quality of life for local people and ensuring our residents have good employment and training opportunities is key to that.
“This is why we worked with our partners to establish Chesterfield as an Apprentice Town in 2017
“This year’s conference has brought together partners from local businesses and education providers and, working together, we will continue to provide new opportunities to develop our future workforce.”