The Race for Apprentice Talent

How are Employers Staying Competitive?

With still only 6% of school leavers going onto an apprenticeship and less than 0.5% pursuing a higher or degree level apprenticeship, the competition for talent is increasing and employers are upping their game, according to the ISE 2019 Student Recruitment Survey.

Recruiting Young Apprentices


  • 77% of employers now engage with schools & colleges as part of their apprenticeship attraction, and on average visit 33 schools and colleges per year.
  • UCAS closes its doors to applications 15th January 2020. To compete with this, 58% of employers are now opening their school leaver recruitment campaigns in Autumn term, up from 35% last year.
  • National Apprenticeship Week has been brought forward by a month to w/c 3rd February 2020.
  • The majority of employers are placing more emphasis on diversity; the strongest rationales driving this were the desire to secure the best talent (76%) and to be representative of customer/client base (58%).

However, research does suggest not enough is being done to convince young people that an apprenticeship is the right route for them, meaning less good quality applications: 

  • Interest in starting an apprenticeship has dropped from 11% of students in 2018 to 9% in 2019.
  • Only 29% of students thought that their parents would be happy with them doing an apprenticeship.
  • And research suggests that only 50% of young people can recall any employer interaction.

So how can we help?

We have relationships with over 4,500 schools and colleges, plus an in-house expert talent engagement team who prioritise candidate experience. Through this, we are able to help with hard-to-fill roles, increase diversity of hires, and reduce the resource required.

Case Study: Smith & Williamson Apprenticeship Programme

We partnered with Smith & Williamson this year to help them address a lack of awareness of their brand among potential apprentices. Adopting our ‘train first, assess later’ approach to the talent acquisition cycle, we implemented a programme of support, from initial application to final assessment. The newly designed assessment day features a comprehensive programme – beginning with a welcome and overview, moving to a group exercise and interview with a partner. This then finishes with a written exercise and networking lunch with Smith & Williamson trainees. This structure creates a greater sense of connection with the company among young people, and allows strong candidates to perform their best.

In all, 27 young people were offered an apprenticeship opportunity this year, with the quality of candidates increasing dramatically from previous years. Those applying received real, meaningful support during the application process and the programme resulted in a 47% conversion rate from assessment day attendees to job offers made.