Why More Employers Are Benefitting From The Implementation Of School Leaver Programmes And Apprenticeships

The future of your business is down to the talented staff you employ and your recruitment strategy is crucial in attracting the best young applicants for this. Upon recruitment, it’s all about training the young people you have recruited to meet the future needs of your business. So how are methods developing over the coming years and what can you do to make sure your company is recruiting, developing and retaining the best young talent out there?

For various reasons, such as the increasing costs of going to university, for example, firms now need to look at the way they recruit staff to make sure the company continues to work effectively and remains competitive in the 21st century. For many years, Britain has existed in a culture that the only way for young people to have a successful career is to get good A-level results, go to university and then begin a career upon graduation. This means, in the past, many companies had to rely upon the creation of effective graduate programmes and could not really acquire Britain’s brightest talents until they had graduated from university in their early 20s.

However, thanks to various developments such as government initiatives, the increasing cost of going to university for students and also the drive of employer’s in exploring new avenues in sustainable recruitment, that culture is slowly being eroded and other options can now be considered both by school leavers and employers. It’s a win win situation for both employers and employees.

Apprenticeships and school leaver programmes now offer school leavers and other young people genuine alternatives for career success rather than the traditional university route. Nowadays, in 2014, just because a young person chooses not to take the university route, it doesn’t mean they can’t have a bright career ahead of them and this, in turn, has led to a more marked shake up in traditional recruitment strategies. While graduate career programmes are certainly still valuable for the future success of firms, businesses are now starting to think about how they can adjust their recruitment strategy so that they tap into the even younger talent that’s out there and have good staff retention in the future. Setting up school leaver programmes and / or apprenticeships within the company are proving to be an effective way of doing this.

Apprenticeships And School Leaver Programmes Are Changing Image

As far as the traditional university route is concerned, we are still in relatively early days when considering alternatives to this. However, speed of change is picking up pace and the perception that there is no career success unless you go to university is slowly disappearing. Does your company’s recruitment strategy take this into account?

Apprenticeships and school leaver programmes are increasingly being pushed as, and seen as, a way to drive the the economy of the United Kingdom forward by creating a committed and highly skilled workforce for the future. Depending on the nature of your business, adopting one or both of these recruitment strategies means you shouldn’t miss out on some of the best potential young talent out there. In using these schemes, many of the top companies in the United Kingdom  are snapping up some of the brightest young people in the country and are providing high quality training for them to contribute to the continuing development of their firm. These days many young school leavers either don’t want to to study full time at university or they cannot financially afford to do that. Offering School leaver programmes and / or apprenticeships are just two ways that your business can make sure it doesn’t miss out on these people.

Compared to apprenticeships, school leaver programmes are relatively new to the ‘alternatives to university scene’ and are dynamic in that companies who adopt this recruitment strategy are continually developing the structure of the programmes to increase their effectiveness and to make sure they are still attracting the best young applicants. School leaver programmes are fast becoming more popular with both employers and employees as they become more well known and many of the businesses that set up school leaver programmes in the past are now increasing their intake of young people onto the programmes. This is both because there are more applicants each year and because businesses are finding them to be an effective recruitment strategy both for attracting new talent and for staff retention. Is your company in the mix when it comes to employing talented school leavers?

School leaver programmes are not suitable for all industries and perhaps employing school leavers on an apprenticeship scheme would more benefit your business. Apprenticeships are slightly different to school leaver programmes in that they have a long and established history in the United Kingdom. As far as apprenticeships are concerned, this has been both an advantage and a disadvantage. They are traditionally associated with young people – usually males – learning a trade, and as such, have struggled in the past to shake off their blue collar image.

While this perception still may exist in the United Kingdom amongst some people (the parents of some students still think of apprenticeships in this way and consider university to be the best route for their child), government efforts to extend and promote the range of apprenticeship schemes and rethinks in recruitment strategies by many top employers are changing this. School leavers are now seeing apprenticeships of all levels as completely viable alternative entries to a successful career rather than needing to study full time for a university degree.

Many of the United Kingdom’s employers are realising this and have adapted their recruitment strategy to implement existing apprenticeship schemes and also to develop new ones that will both help drive their business forward and attract the best young school leavers. Is your company’s recruitment strategy set up to attract young people onto apprenticeship schemes that could in turn develop their skills, improve your staff retention and drive your firm forward in the future?

How Are Employers Using School Leaver Programmes And Apprenticeships To Their Benefit?

For some sectors, it’s not a case of having to decide which is the best between school leaver programmes, apprenticeships and graduate programmes, but rather a case of working out how all three of them can be implemented into the company recruitment strategy so that the most suitable candidates are found for the right jobs and careers. Because there is a programme of training, development, mentoring and further qualifications involved, loyalty to the firm and staff retention is also improved.


Many big employers in the United Kingdom have been able to take all these options into consideration and implement them into the company. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) are considered to be one of the ‘big four’ auditors in the United Kingdom and are a good example of a company who have incorporated school leaver programmes and higher apprenticeships, as well as their graduate programmes, into their recruitment strategy. By running a higher apprenticeship scheme, it is companies like this that are helping to get rid of the blue collar image of apprenticeships that we mentioned above.

It’s also evident that PricewaterhouseCoopers can see value in their schemes. They think there is room for a variety of recruitment strategies and development schemes because they now have talented young people from various economic and academic backgrounds coming to their firm via a variety of routes. Accountancy companies are well known for making use of school leaver programmes to develop and train their young staff and some of these are now well established with stiff competition amongst school leavers for places. PwC have taken this further and are now also working with other smaller companies in helping them to develop their own apprenticeship schemes so that they too can benefit from taking their young recruits through a structured programme where both the apprentice and the company benefit. The apprentice receives nationally recognised training and qualifications and the company therefore benefits from having a better qualified, more skilled recruit.

Law Firms

In the United Kingdom, there is a long tradition of how young talent breaks into the world of law. This has usually been a student graduating with a degree in law and then going on to work for a law firm until they became fully qualified. However, some firms are now thinking outside of this tradition as they realised they were losing out on talent of young people who couldn’t go to university, on many occasions due to economic reasons.

Described as a groundbreaking change, in April of 2013, the Higher Apprenticeship in Legal Services was launched. It is a real break from the traditional university route into law and successful completion of the apprenticeship gives young people a qualification that is equivalent to the first year of a degree – it is known as CILEX (Chartered Institute of Legal Executives) Level 4. The CILEX Level 4 means law firms in the United Kingdom can still tap into the talent of young people from less wealthy families; those who opted out of university for economic reasons. The CILEX Level 4 has given law firms real alternatives in recruiting the best young people and more law companies are taking it up across the United Kingdom. CILEX Level 3 has already been developed and firms adopting this apprenticeship also.

This shake up in recruitment for law firms has also meant changes in the way law companies run their day to day business. Whereas before, highly experienced staff and partners were spending lots of time on administrative work, much of this can now be passed on to young apprenticeships who are learning on the job and the more qualified people can concentrate on their tasks. Law firms are finding big benefits in the recruitment of young people through apprenticeships.

Looking Forward – Is Your Company Making Use Of School Leaver Programmes, Apprenticeships Or Other Means Of Getting The Best For Your Firm From Young Recruits?

At the moment, it is only the larger United Kingdom companies in a few sectors that have developed school leaver programmes for those students who choose not to go onto full time study at university. The retail, finance, engineering, hospitality & tourism, accountancy and IT sectors are all areas where school leaver programmes are to be found. They are rapidly increasing in popularity with both school leavers and the companies themselves and increased competition for places means these firms get their pick of the United Kingdom’s best young talent.

Retail giant Tesco, are constantly assessing their recruitment strategy and they are currently experimenting with a pilot school leaver programme that takes on school leavers at 16 years old. This is a tailored programme that aims to take those recruits right up to store management level over a period of a few years while gaining recognised qualifications at the same time. Companies such as Tesco are finding benefits in recruiting young school leavers because they come with less ‘baggage.’ They are finding it is easier to mould these young people into the company leaders of the future.

Accredited apprenticeships provide a national structure for the development of your young staff  where they gain on the job training combined with job related qualifications that are studied for outside of the workplace. If you are unsure as to whether your company could make use of an apprenticeship scheme within your recruitment strategy, take a look at this list of types of apprenticeships. Also, for more detailed information about what an apprenticeship might entail, you could also read our student page, What Is An Apprenticeship?

Naturally, as an employer, you want a recruitment strategy that allows you to find the best young people to work for your company and never has the choice been so good for both recruiters and school leavers and students. You want the best staff and these days, that doesn’t necessarily have to be a team solely made up of university graduates. Thanks to school leaver programmes and apprenticeships, your company now has the opportunity to employ a mixture of people from a variety of backgrounds and each will bring something different to the table.

Having had the student lifestyle experience, both socially and academically, for at least the previous three years, your graduates may well be more mature and possibly have more developed social and communication skills on top of their university degree. Your young school leavers on the other hand, whether via a school leaver programme or an apprenticeship, have possibly been chosen from a large pool of applicants (some companies receive over 100 applications for each available place on a school leaver programme). In theory, this means you have been able to choose from a number of suitable applicants and train them directly to the requirements of your firm. Whichever background they are from, all your young people are driven and your investment in them should pay dividends for your company in the future.

Staff retention is a priority for most companies out there and making sure you employ the best staff in the first place is the most cost effective way of doing this as well as the fact that it will save you a lot of time. Whether you have established graduate training programmes, school leaver programmes, apprenticeships or other staff development schemes for your company, you still need to consider the best people for the job. Take a look at our essential interview questions to help your find the best employees.

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