Recruiting and Screening Apprentices

HFE Tutor with student
Tutor with student

In the spirit of National Apprenticeship Week 2015, the first of our Top 5 Strategies for Apprenticeship Success will focus on Recruitment and screening. This is also the first stage of the apprenticeship programme for employers, and arguably the most important, which is why we’ve decided to open our series of blogs on this topic.

For any business to succeed it’s essential that it has the right people representing it – this is even more critical in service-based industries like the health, fitness and leisure sector. Employees must share the same values and philosophies as the business if the relationship is to stand the test of time. Recruiting great staff is a constant challenge and finding a great apprentice, or two, is no different!

Apprenticeships represent a fantastic opportunity for employers and apprentices alike, but both must be firmly committed to the programme. In today’s digital world, it’s so easy for job seekers to apply for job vacancies, and apprenticeships are after all, jobs!  They simply upload a CV and generic covering letter to a portal, then at the click of a button they are able to apply for any number of vacancies. Long gone are the days when you actually had to complete an application form, which in its self was an effective screening tool because only the most enthusiastic applicants would take the time to complete the form. There was no spell check and certainly no cut and paste facility!

Employers today are literally swamped with generic style applications, many of which don’t possess the requisite skills, qualifications and experience. Applications for apprenticeships are often equally as generic, and the National Apprenticeship Vacancy Management System (NAVMs) doesn’t make this any easier. There are few options for employers and training providers to customise the application process.

With these problems in mind, here are our top 5 strategies for hiring and screening apprentices:

1.    Customise the application process – avoid simply asking apprentices to send in a CV and covering letter. Ask them to complete a specific application form that presents relevant and contextual questions about their suitability for the position.

2.    Get a second opinion – when interviewing apprentices, be sure to involve a number of colleagues in the process; perhaps use an interview panel to ensure that you get more than one perspective. This would also be a great opportunity to see how the candidate performs under pressure!

3.    Use a trial period – ask potential apprentices to undertake a 2-3 days trial period to see how well they take to the work environment, how they respond to instruction and how much they want the position. If they say “no” to the trial, chances are they’re not the right person for the job anyway!

4.    Involve your training provider – training providers will be able to add a great deal of value to the recruitment and screening process because they have a vested interest in ensuring that you get the right candidate. If the apprentice doesn’t complete their apprenticeship, the provider cannot recover the full cost of the training. Consult regularly with your provider and share ideas on how you can work together to get the most out of your apprenticeship vacancy.

5.    Be clear about the apprentice’s journey – it’s important to know what you expect of your apprentice and how and when the apprentice should reach key milestones; how else would you know if they are on track? Set out this roadmap at the start of the programme and make sure that would be apprentices are aware of the volume of on and off the job work they are required to complete. If they are fazed by this, again they’re probably not the right calibre of the applicant.

There are many variables involved with hiring an apprentice and this can often make the prospect somewhat daunting. Here at HFE we do all we can to take the hassle out of this process by working with our employers and applicants to ensure that they are suitably matched. Apprenticeships are a long-term investment and like all good investments, they rarely pay dividends in the short-term.

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