Here is Grahame Jones’ blog for the Institute of Student Employers on how to make apprentice attraction campaigns work harder.
To mark National Apprenticeship Week, Grahame Jones of Soukias Jones Design uncovers the secrets to attracting students to apprenticeships.
Eighteen months ago we developed the new branding for the Institute of Student Employers (www.ise.org.uk). This gave us valuable insight into the changing patterns of student recruitment, not least the growing popularity of apprenticeships. With this insight, we decided to investigate how professional services firms are performing when it comes to attracting apprentices.
Between June and September 2018, we conducted an extensive review of the websites and social channels of over 140 firms across the legal, accounting and consultancy sectors. Our findings in the report Is inclusion winning? How professional services firms attract apprentices, however, are equally relevant to all sectors and businesses.
Here I offer eight ideas drawn from our research which employers should consider when shaping their branding and marketing to apprentices.
Eight ideas for success
- Make the effort to understand them: Generation Z (those born from 1995 onwards) live for social media, particularly on smartphones. These young people seek out knowledge and know-how, respond to visual material, and create and share content. They are technologically savvy, socially and globally switched on, and entrepreneurial. They also crave relevance and authenticity.
- Be authentic: Involving apprentices in content created for branding and marketing campaigns helps to generate this authenticity. Capturing apprentices’ insights and experiences on film is one of the most popular and effective approaches to storytelling, according to our research. Make your story and messages distinctive, relevant and exciting to stand out in a business world that most teenagers find dull and boring.
- Speak their language, verbally and visually: Regardless of the approach chosen, an engaging tone of voice across all content is essential. Progressive and enterprising is in; conservative and corporate is out – the latter just doesn’t appeal to Generation Z. And remember, make your brand look young and appealing for visually-aware and brand-conscious teenagers.
- Embrace social media: Teenagers live on, and for, social media. Embrace it too. Many firms are using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube to reach potential candidates. The truly digitally savvy are delivering ‘in the moment’ content, such as Facebook Live streams and Instagram Stories.
- Map journeys from school to work: Students face many choices: apprenticeships, university, further education college and employment. It can be hard to know which route is the best one to take. Make life easy for them. Map out their journeys through Year 10 to Year 13 and provide them with the relevant information they need to make the right decisions every step of the way.
- Influence the influencers: Parents and schools’ career advisers play an important role in guiding student career choices. Many of these groups have a university heritage and bias, and often have misconceptions about apprenticeships as a ‘second’ choice. From our findings, only a few progressive firms attempted to bust these myths.
- Make them feel looked after: For students with little or no experience of the workplace, offer support and guidance during the transition to work and the on-boarding process. Be clear about the levels of pastoral care, mentoring, and career and personal development they will receive. Reassurance and education are important when students are making their choices.
- Make the diversity connection: A key way for businesses to make the apprenticeship route appealing to students is to show how committed they are to developing talent from different sources. But, surprisingly, we found that most firms are weak at making this connection with diversity and inclusion when positioning their apprenticeship credentials. Showing the diversity and inclusion of apprenticeship candidates through case studies – and stressing the importance during the engagement and recruitment process – can only help to attract students (and their parents) to the apprenticeship route.
Our research tells us that there has been a transition away from ‘Why do you want to work for us?’ to ‘Let us help you understand us’, particularly in the context of the choices students have available to them today. Amid competing claims and an increasingly connected world, more than ever do we need to put ourselves in the shoes of teenagers. Education, authenticity and relevance are the bywords for success.
You can learn more by requesting a copy of our report.