The 3 ways to attract and engage apprentice talent in 2022


Jackie Greisdale, Youth Marketing Consultant


Attracting and engaging apprentice talent

At SMRS we have been surveying 2,000 young people aged 16-21 over the last year, to gather insights about how the way young people think and behave in relation to career and education decision making has been changing. I recently shared some insights at the ISE’s Apprenticeship Conference, along with three core recommendations for engaging school leaver talent about apprenticeships.


Engage with students early to raise awareness

There’s continues to be a ‘bias’ for the well-trodden path into Higher Education which influences the views of many young people about their next destination. Our recent survey asked school students what they were intending to do next, and over three fifths were thinking about or had already applied for university.

When we asked why they were pursuing Higher Education, a necessity for their desired career and to improve their employment prospects were the two leading reasons. However, while apprenticeships offer the opportunity to earn and learn, the proportion of students considering it as a viable alternative is still low – with just 11% saying they were interested in an apprenticeship.

Before interest comes awareness, and we found that just 65% of the school leaver audience we spoke to said they were aware of apprenticeships. An even smaller proportion (56%) were aware of degree apprenticeships and only a third were aware of T-levels.

Through engaging early, employers can help schools and colleges to tackle deep-rooted perceptions, while also helping students to keep their options open by improving the awareness and appeal of alternatives to university. It also gives employers an opportunity to build long term partnerships with schools, which in turn, supports brand building with the student audience, leading to the development of sustainable apprentice talent pipelines for the future.


Nuance your proposition and communications

The priorities of young people have changed as a result of the complex mix of external impacts of the last two years. In fact, 43% of the students we spoke to told us their career priorities had changed in the last 12 months.

The world has changed and so have they. They have re-evaluated what is important, and their awareness and concern about issues such as racism, equality and mental health are affecting how they make decisions about their careers. In fact, 37% of students with a high concern about money and financial hardship said their career and education choices were being influenced by the matter, the same was true for those who were very concerned about issues of equality.

We saw this reflected in their answers about what was important for them in their future career, with work life balance being the top-ranking priority amongst the students we spoke to at the beginning of this year. We also saw aspects such as a friendly and supportive work environment becoming increasingly important, 36% said it was a top priority, placing it above career progression which was equal in importance with being able to ‘fit in’ (32%).

It’s therefore important to consider what’s really important to school leavers and what could be presenting barriers. It’s also about considering and communicating the whole proposition, not just the more obvious aspects – share how you’ll support their transition from education to the working world to connect on the issues which are important to them.


A targeted, multi-channel approach to reaching your audience

All too often, due to the challenge of navigating the extensive school and college landscape, employers cast the net too wide.

We asked students what the most influential sources of information were when they were thinking about career and education destinations and social media, particularly platforms such as You Tube were stand out winners.

Peers also continue to be highly influential. Gen Z actively seek out authentic content, they want real insight from people who are like them and as a result, engaging content formats, particularly video, has a big impact. Sharing video content from people within your organisation, which provides insight, and which guides and reassures through storytelling is continuing to be a highly effective way of connecting and engaging with this audience.

And while social media influencers are helping more innovative employers reach untapped audiences, it’s important not to forget their biggest influencers of all – parents, teachers and friends. In fact, among those who were already working or on apprenticeship programmes – 40% said their peers had been influential in that decision. We also saw that friends were more influential for those who are or would be the first generation to university.

By combining a strategic approach to targeted school and college engagement, with a targeted digital attraction campaign which shares your message in an authentic and engaging way, you’ll be able to build brand awareness and appeal with your target audience, while nurturing an engaged pipeline of apprentice talent for your opportunities.