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Keeping school-leavers on the agenda

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Apprenticeships are popular with politicians and the public alike. They offer youngsters a debt-free way to gain qualifications as well as improving the nation’s skills and employment levels. A report we commissioned with think tank Demos found the majority of youngsters (54 per cent) would choose to do an apprenticeship if one were available. In addition, apprentices actually came out as more employable than graduates* in the research.

Most people would associate apprenticeships with school leavers aged 16 or 17.  The perception is that after completing their GCSEs, the teenagers begin an apprenticeship with a local manufacturing or engineering company. This may have been the case in the past, and still may be true for some sectors. But the rise in both awareness and perceived value of apprenticeships has meant more and more people are applying for them, raising the age and experience of applicants.

But to receive more outstanding candidates, we need to ensure that school-age applicants with fewer qualifications and less experience are still considered.

There are a number of ways businesses can do this. Firstly, by recruiting for behaviour and not skills. Applicants often don’t need a technical background or work experience for an apprenticeship – they will gain this as part of their training.

The second way is to support aspiring apprentices is through partnerships with organisations such as the Prince’s Trust. We are currently working on a campaign called ‘Get into Engineering’. This offers youngsters from the Prince’s Trust the opportunity of doing an apprenticeship with one of our sub-contractors in Wales. 

A third way in which businesses can support school-leavers in their applications is by providing them with tips and advice along the way. The Plotr website is a great place for students to start planning their career. It provides plenty of inspiration on different career journeys and resources on building CVs and completing interviews. 

Whether it’s as a mentor or an employer there are numerous ways businesses can commit to supporting youth employment. By taking an approach to recruitment as described here we can ensure school-leavers don’t become the forgotten 50 per cent.

Written by John Madden from British Gas on apprenticeships.

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