Apprenticeship Market Trends 2023 

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The Apprenticeship Market Right Now 

It’s 2023! For the first time in 10 years, the number of school leavers going to university is decreasing, and 50% of the people registered with UCAS want more information on Apprenticeships! 

With industry insights and our own data and analysis, Amberjack take a look at the Apprenticeship market as it currently stands and evaluate what’s to come this year. 

Apprenticeship Market Growth 

Ongoing industry discussion indicates that Apprenticeships are on the up! Both from an employer demand and candidate application perspective. 

At the ISE 2022 Apprenticeships Forum, James Powell from BPP shared that although Apprenticeship starts from 2021/22 were still down 11% on the pre-Covid year of 2018/19, the indication leans towards a strong recovery for the market. The number of 16–18-year-olds doing Apprenticeships in 2021/22 is up 20% on the previous year and rose 13% for 19-24-year-olds too. 

This growth is expected to continue, at the ISE Apprenticeships Conference 2023, Steven Isherwood shared that Apprentice vacancies are expected to grow by 18/19%, in comparison to just 2/3% for Graduate vacancies. In addition, with 52% of UCAS registrants interested in Apprenticeships and 68% of ISE members now recruiting school and college leavers, it’s clear that the Apprenticeship market is set to flourish. 

Attraction 

Lack of Student Understanding 

Despite this rate of rapid growth, hiring Apprentices comes with challenges, much of which comes from the outdated perceptions and stereotypes associated with Apprenticeships, and the lack of information in schools. 

As Dr Katie Bell from UCAS shared at the ISE Conference, only 26% of applicants found it easy to access information on Apprenticeships, compared to 73% for Higher Education. This stark difference is indicative of the information gap between Apprenticeships and University in schools. 

A Degree Apprentice who was a panel member at the ISE Conference discussion on the student perspective, highlighted this lack of knowledge and information provided in schools as a key problem for students. Time and time again Apprenticeships conversations turned to how to combat this issue, with the main solutions focusing on how to clean things up for potential applicants. 

Students, college leavers, and other Early Talent are generally lacking awareness around Apprenticeships. Make it easier for them to understand what to expect. Break down the application and assessment process in your presentations and communications. Young people are unlikely to know what an Assessment Centre is or how they work. They probably don’t know about all the different resources available to find out more; providing these resources, or an avenue for students to ask questions, makes it simpler to understand, start engaging potential candidates right by not scaring them away. 

It is also crucial to remember the role of teachers in influencing students. These adults see your potential candidates every day, equipping them with the knowledge and information they need to support Apprentice applications just makes sense. With only 24% of teachers feeling confident in supporting these applications, vs. 90% for university applications, addressing the lack of awareness in teachers is an easy win for improving application numbers, engagement, and more. 

Face-to-face Events 

There is evidence that students and young people are experiencing ‘digital fatigue’. A type of mental exhaustion brought on by excessive use of technology and screen-time, digital fatigue isn’t uncommon among students these days. Exacerbated by Covid, this digital indifference means that your face-to-face events have the potential to achieve significant engagement. Building relationships with schools and using these avenues to provide students with accurate information directly is a route to consider for engaging this challenging audience. 

Furthermore, for parents and carers, some of the most influential figures in student career decision making, onsite experiences, can help attract more diverse cohorts of applicants. Parents can be strong factors in swaying your potential applicants one way or another, and with 90% of parents claiming they have insufficient knowledge regarding Apprenticeships, not including them in your attraction strategy means potentially losing out. 

Digital Content 

While ‘digital fatigue’ is a new player in the challenges of Apprenticeship attraction, it would be foolish to dismiss the sheer importance of digital presence and online content to Gen Z and Gen A audiences. When you’re raised and educated using digital tools, spending less time online due to digital fatigue is still spending a lot of time online. 

If you’re not using social media in your attraction strategy, you’re missing out. Over the last year, Amberjack have attended a number of events, from RecFest and Conferences to Webinars and Forums, and we’ve seen students, apprentices, businesses, and suppliers alike stress the importance of an online presence. 

To engage such a unique and challenging audience, you need to meet them where they are. This is especially important for low confidence candidates, as revealed by Springpod at the ISE Apprenticeships Conference. These candidates need a clear understanding of apprenticeships, the vacancies available, and the application process to feel comfortable, and they like to take their time. By bringing your content to the platforms where they spend most of their time, you can help them build that confidence. 

For the more confident candidates, undertaking independent research is a given. Young panel members revealed that when they research, they use a variety of channels, from the more traditional and formal websites like UCAS, to platforms like YouTube and TikTok (which 55% of UK Gen Z users visit multiple times a day), the digital world is close to your candidates; providing information using these avenues is recommended to engage them.  

Open and regular communications across channels including digital, helps provide potential applicants of all confidence levels with a sense of calm. 

Knowing Your Audience 

As stressed so far, the young audience interested in Apprenticeships is uniquely challenging and can be difficult to please. Students know that entering the workforce sometimes requires a level of experience and understanding which is more easily gained via Apprenticeships. These students want that firsthand experience, and don’t want the debt associated with university – targeting these students is another easy win for Apprentice recruitment. 

Knowing your audience is key to producing content that actually works, especially in the oversaturated digital world they’ve been raised in. 

But what do students want? Attracting Early Talent is one of our specialties here at Amberjack, but to begin with, at the ISE Apprenticeships Conference last month, Dr Katie Bell from UCAS shared some surprising statistics: 

  • 82% of students say that brand reputation is important 
  • 76% of students say pay increase based on performance is important 
  • 94% of students say that job security is important 
  • 90% of students say that progression opportunities are important 

Selection 

After attraction, it’s important to address the assessment and selection challenges that come with apprentice recruitment in 2023. How do we set up these students, especially our diverse candidates, for success after they apply? How do we allow them to represent their best in the recruitment process? 

The ever-increasing (and well-needed) focus on diversity has encouraged many changes in the current Early Talent market. For the first time, less than half of employers now demand applicants possess a 2:1 degree, and only 13% set a UCAS point minimum. Employers are trusting selection tools and assessment models, such as Amberjack’s Model for Identifying Potential, to help them broaden their talent pools and find quality candidates. 

Organisations are also becoming more committed to improving the end-to-end experience for candidates and this is crucial for keeping applicants engaged as they progress through the process. In this candidate-led market, your talent pool is submitting multiple applications across multiple businesses at any one time. 

It’s important to stand out, refresh your assessment questions and assess your Apprentice candidates on relevant material. Especially as outdated numerical reasoning tests see a higher dropout rate of ethnic minorities – not addressing your selection methods and materials is shooting yourself in the foot. 

Candidate Quality 

Employers are reporting that their Apprenticeship recruitment is resulting in quality hires. 75% of organisations report that they are ‘almost always’ or ‘often’ able to recruit the quality of school and college leavers they need. 

Moreover, hiring apprentices is not just about hiring high quality, but building high quality. With 86% of employers claiming that Apprenticeships helped their hires develop relevant new skills, and the strong influence you can have on this Early Talent enabling you to grow the talent you need from the inside, it’s clear that the quality Apprentices bring with them can have significant benefits for your business. 

Attracting and maintaining this high-quality talent is the challenge, but Harvey, Degree Apprentice with the BBC and panel member at the ISE Apprenticeships Conference, shared his experience and the perspective of Apprentices like him. Problems arise for your candidates when it comes to travel funds for face-to-face interviews and Assessment Centres. A lack of flexibility in an increasingly virtual world during the current Cost of Living Crisis means that by not leaning into virtual and hybrid processes, you might be turning away your applicants who will simply apply elsewhere. 

It’s a candidate market. Young people interested in Apprenticeships will simply apply elsewhere if they can’t get what they need in your recruitment process. 

Filling the Technology Skills Gap 

The technology skills gap is a hot topic in recruitment right now. Yet, with Information and Communication Technology boasting the highest completion rate of all Apprenticeships at 67.1%, these candidates are set to be able to fill the critical roles businesses need. 

Create your own pipeline for those hard to fill roles. Employers don’t usually get a say in the skills that their employers have, but with Apprenticeships, employers and employees can work collaboratively to collate the set of skills needed. Hand picking the skills that suit your Apprentice and your business needs can help you begin closing the skills gap from the inside. 

Amy Marren, Paralegal Apprentice at the BPP Education Group, shared that learning alongside professionals and the people who are in touch with the industry firsthand allows her to gain the skills she needs. She feels supported to grow within the organisation; the advice and guidance that an employer can directly offer an Apprentice allows for skills to be honed to plug organisational gaps. 

Utilising the Benefits of Apprenticeships 

Equipped with the industry knowledge from the 2023 market, utilising Apprenticeships to bolster your business and shape the talent you need is the next step. 

According to the ONS, 83% of employers are satisfied with Apprenticeships. The Department of Education says that 65% of completers report a pay increase and 39% report a promotion. It is clear that the value these Apprentices bring to their organisations is high and worth rewarding; at the ISE Apprenticeships Conference several employers revealed that their Apprentices are so high value they are being poached.  

There’s no better time to increase your Apprenticeship hiring and reap the benefits they provide. 

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