Open all ours?
By Mike Hoffman
When it comes to School Leavers, we’re used to the certainty of deadlines. From UCAS applications closing to A-levels results day, the world of Year 13 revolves around fixed points, which gives the school leaver recruitment cycle a certain predictability.
But, unlike university applications, apprenticeships are neither centrally managed nor required to conform to a set timetable. And, although almost all apprenticeship programmes start in September, the opening dates for applications and deadlines for submission vary enormously across sectors and businesses.
So, you’re faced with a dilemma…
Do you open for applications early and risk a long keep-warm period?
Or wait, hold back and risk losing the best candidates?
Added to which, 2017-18 is the first year of the Apprenticeship Levy. And we must assume the extra money will inevitably drive up numbers and lead to greater competition between apprenticeship providers to attract applications.
So, you open for applications early - right?
Well, as long as your resourcing team can manage applications and keep candidates warm for longer – why not?
Well, perhaps because…
They’re just not into you…yet.
People like to keep their options open. If they’re a little unsure about what they want to do, why commit themselves to applying for an apprenticeship this early. A campaign we ran a few years back for a Big Four school and college leaver programme, backs this up. They were determined not to lose out to competitors, and brought forward the opening of the campaign from January to early December, to increase applications. It didn’t work.
This is the ‘Just-In-Time Generation’
A generation who’ve grown up expecting to have what they want when they want it. So why would they feel the need to be super advanced in their planning for something nearly a year away unless they absolutely had to?
More and more students seek and obtain places in Clearing each year. And, EVERY university now takes part in Clearing. Not just the stragglers and hapless as in days gone by. Because candidates want to apply in a way that’s convenient to them and at a time that suits them best. Just in time, in fact.
They can pick and choose
The very best apprentice applicants will want the very best deal. Many could get into university if they wanted to and can realistically consider it at any point in the next 8 months. They’re also in demand from competitors and don’t see why they should accept the hand of the first suitor to catch their eye.
So, why will apprentices choose you?
The perfect time to invite applications is a grey area. And, while it might be advantageous to invite enquiries and sign ups in the 2017 calendar year, it won’t necessarily translate into an increase in either quantity or quality of candidates in your programme.
More important than the opening date will be the quality of your proposition, your communication and ability to sell the opportunity, and keep people interested. You need to stand out and give candidates a compelling reason WHY you are the best apprenticeship on the block!