Looking for an apprenticeship in real life


Websites, events and now a dedicated week – the re-brand of apprenticeships is well underway and rightly so. Talking a good game online is one thing but armed with intrigue and interest we wanted to review what it looked like IRL. An Apprenticeship event seemed the perfect sample: exhibitors offering apprenticeships and speakers delivering content on CVs, the digital age and how to secure a role after school. Perfect. 

The stage was set for an inspirational day out for young people and would give us an insight to the apprenticeship market. Win win in our eyes. The reality… frustrating, out of date and we believe fairly useless to the students and exhibitors in attendance.

Stand after stand – despite the thousands of pounds exhibitors would have spent – were populated by staff who stood blankly or worse still, sat, oblivious as students filed past. Forcing conversation within earshot of company representatives only resulted in being asked to sign up to a newsletter, email or prize draw. These events should be more than a “lead generation” activity. Quite frankly, if they are going to be all based on just leads at least qualify them! Exhibitors, you are supposed to be looking for the people who can drive your business forward, who could be your future leaders and innovators. Speak to them, ask questions and lead the conversation to educate them

“Exhibitors – this approach, ethic and attitude is a waste of your marketing and HR budget.”

A 19 year old we spoke with over lunch shared, that events like these – her third of this type – were commonly known to many young people as just a ‘morning off school’. They generally have no idea what the companies do and they don’t know what they’re supposed to ask. Let’s put this in perspective they have never applied for anything – ever – even exams have answer sheets and guidelines they learn from. On asking why not just take the gamble and talk to some companies, her response frank, honest and relatable:  “They seem busy on their phones and I don’t want to disturb them – not when i don’t know what question I am even supposed to ask” 

Ok, so the exhibition side of the event, had not really lived up to expectations but we still had our seminar of choice selected… frustration now evolved into anger. The advice being offered was poor, the inspiration missing and the data, old and irrelevant. The audience craved real stories, real tips …anything real at this point would have been helpful. 

On reflection we believe despite the hashtags and strong social media presence, we all have to question what will help IRL?  Many are scaremongering with facts like “recruiters read your CV for 6 seconds” and “ you should create a secondary Facebook profile”. Surely, advisers should lead with “this is how you encourage a recruiter to read your CV” and “how to be smarter with your (actual!) social media profiles”?

In this week of all weeks, young people are being encouraged to truly explore their options after school. Companies are utilising the levy, recruiting specialists and building programmes all to attract young people… ladies and gentlemen what you also need to do is understand your audience.

Now we aren’t suggesting to put everything on a plate, but we have to accept that the step for young people from education to employment requires coaching and guidance. Careers support can not just be to take young people to an event – it has to involve more – an element schools are working tirelessly on. However, exhibitors and employers you too have a responsibility least not to your workforce planning objectives but also to the young people in the community. Take heed and really begin to consider your approach, your target market and how best to really drive results from events like these that we are sure will become more popular if only to “tick the box”. Ticking a box doesn’t drive change… it just… well it just ticks a box.

Are you an employer who thinks outside the box? Would you like to share your experience of searching for your next step after the classroom? We would love to hear from you – so get in touch!


Adelle Desouza

I'm the founder here at HireHigher, with the mission to ensure students can make informed choices on their options after education.


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