How to Recruit the Right Apprentice

In our recent employer survey, one of the key challenges that employers identified was recruiting the right people for their business. In this article, we provide advice and guidance on how to attract and appoint the right people for your apprenticeship programmes.

Writing a Job Description

The job description and person specification you create for the role is critical in this process; if you don’t get good applications from suitable candidates, then you will never be able to recruit the right person. It should include the job title, main duties and responsibilities, information about the company and the location. The person specification details all of the essential and desirable criteria you would like candidates to have.

It is important that your job description is engaging and written in a way that will get individuals excited and motivated to apply for the role. If you are recruiting an apprentice for an entry level role (for example, a level 2 or 3 apprenticeship), you should bear in mind that many applicants will be at the very beginning of their careers. Some will have never submitted a formal job application or attended an interview before. Try to keep your job description free of jargon and convoluted language, and help applicants get a clear picture of what they will be doing in the role on a day-to-day basis.

In the person specification, be realistic about what prior qualifications, skills and experience the individual needs to have. Again, for entry level roles, expecting to recruit someone who can “hit the ground running” will be daunting to people with little work experience and goes against the purpose of these apprenticeships, which should be focusing on developing someone’s skills, rather than expecting them to have these already. Focusing on finding someone who is motivated and reliable may well be more useful than focusing in on what GCSE or A-Level grades they have.

Kat Buckley, Account Support Coordinator at Damar Training provides this advice: 

“Make the job description interesting, give it a personality so candidates can see themselves in the role. Focus on features and benefits of the role. The candidate will want to know what sets this role apart from the various other positions they could be applying for. If possible, show the candidate where this role can lead too, give them an idea of what progression opportunities are available as everyone wants to know that there is an investment in their future.”

Deciding what to Pay

At Damar Training, we always encourage employers to pay above the Apprenticeship Minimum Wage. We have seen repeatedly that this does impact on the number and quality of applications received for vacancies we are advertising. You can also consider what other opportunities or perks you can offer. For example, are you willing to increase the salary (beyond any increases which are legally required) or offer career progression at specified intervals, or do you offer other types of employee benefits which you can highlight?

Advertising the Vacancy

There are many platforms on which you can advertise your apprenticeship vacancy. The government website is a great starting point, but you should also advertise the vacancy on your own website and consider using job boards such as Indeed. Training providers like Damar often have access to other paid jobsites which target certain audiences, such as GetMyFirstJob. Here at Damar we offer a free recruitment service and are able to advertise your vacancy for you on a range of platforms to maximise engagement.

Shortlisting Candidates

Our recruitment team conduct a screening process for the majority of employers that we work with. This allows us to check that the individual meets any essential criteria, is eligible to do an apprenticeship, can commute to the company location and has a solid understanding of what is required in the role and for the training. We then submit suitable candidates to the employer so that they can conduct any further shortlisting activities they wish to. This valuable service saves employers hours and hours of sifting through applications and trying to contact people.

Interviewing Candidates

There are many different types of interviews you could conduct (e.g. competency-based, behavioural, group) and the right type for you will depend on the role and your business. If you’ve not recruited apprentices before, you should consider whether your normal approach to interviews is suitable or needs to be adapted. Regardless of the approach, you should always welcome the candidate, introduce the members of the panel, outline the job role and explain the interview format.

Group interviews are a great way to see how individuals interact with each other and can work as part of a team. They are a little more challenging in the current circumstances, but are by no means impossible. Last summer, we conducted group assessments with hundreds of candidates for over 100 admin roles at the Greater Manchester Police. We invited groups of candidates to a Zoom, hosted by a member of the Damar team, which involved a group activity and discussion as well as an individual note taking exercise. If you’d like to find out more about how we can support your group assessments, please get in touch.

Selecting and Appointing

In most cases, the selected candidate is offered the position verbally, with a follow-up formal written communication. A suitable start date needs to be agreed between the employer, apprentice and training provider and a contract of employment must be put in place, just as it would for any non-apprenticeship role. The training provider will also set a date for the apprenticeship enrolment. On this date, we will get all of the information we need from the apprentice and their line manager and facilitate the signing of an Apprenticeship Agreement. Both levy and non-levy paying organisations now also need to set themselves up on the Apprenticeship Service as part of the onboarding process.

Choosing a Training Provider

There are a number of factors to consider when choosing a training provider for your apprenticeships: their experience in your sector and delivering the qualification you need, their Ofsted grade, how the apprenticeship delivery can be tailored to your business, how you will be kept up to date with progress and value for money.

Damar Training has 40 years’ experience of delivering training in the business and professional sectors. We are rated as a Good provider by Ofsted. Our apprenticeships are delivered with a blended model, including one-to-one and groups sessions with coaches and technical specialists, our online learning resources on Damar OpenLearning and OneFile and our group forums, which connect apprentices on the same qualification and at similar points in their apprenticeship journey. We hold regular review sessions with apprentices’ line managers and progress can also be tracked via the OneFile platform and our Profiler tool. We have many case studies of how we have supported employers across England to recruit and train apprentices in accounting, management, legal, customer service, travel and administration roles. Give us a call today to find out how we can help you recruit the right person for your business.