Earlier this year the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP), the Federation of Small Businesses and the North East Apprenticeship Ambassador Network shared findings from new research, with the aim of reversing the decline in in young people starting apprenticeships in our region. 

As one of the largest apprenticeship providers in the region, Education Partnership North East (EPNE) contributed to the study, which identified three assumptions:  

  • apprenticeship vacancy content fails to attract the attention of 16–18-year-olds 
  • employers lacked understanding of their role in supporting their 16-18-year-old apprentices 
  • recruitment and selection processes require improvement 

Jane Thompson, Executive Director for Apprenticeships, explains how EPNE and its colleges are ready to play a key role in the apprenticeship skills revolution. 

“We welcome the report’s findings and evidence-based assumptions which shine a light on the decline in 16-18-year-olds seeking apprenticeships and provides a real picture of what the landscape looks like across our region. 

“EPNE has a footprint across several areas – both in terms of industries and geography – and work with hundreds of 16-18-year-olds, many of which were interviewed as part of the report along with our employer partners and study programme learners who looked at vacancy adverts to feedback what they felt worked and what didn’t. 

“Our Business Development Team works closely with employers to adapt their approach, raising their awareness of the best way to attract candidates by pulling out the appealing points of their vacancies. Young people want to know what future progression opportunities there are, the salary, what holiday entitlement they will receive and what personal development and mentor support is available. 

“With our expertise, we can help them write adverts and job descriptions which focus on these key details, as well as where to advertise, which is another issue raised which has been raised. The ‘Find an Apprenticeship’ portal is a great platform with high exposure, but it can look very formal and needs some flexibility. It isn’t very appealing to young people. 

“There are also job requirements – for example, do employers know that if a candidate does not have maths and English at Level 2, they don’t need to be discounted, but can be supported on their apprenticeship journey to achieve these qualifications? 

“We’re working with our internal Marketing team to develop our own apprenticeship vacancy platform which will be vibrant and innovative, with the content young people want to see, and allowing them to update their CVs with their actual grades as they receive them, and latest work experience.  

“Apprenticeships are an ideal way to grow a business and develop a motivated, skilled workforce, but many employers don’t understand that recruiting an apprentice is not the same as recruiting a permanent member of staff. 

“An employer looking to recruit their first apprentice may find setting up their online account and language and applying for apprenticeship grants and funding off putting. Then there is recruitment, ongoing mentoring and support, End Point Assessments, references – it’s all very new to a lot of employers. We can help guide them through every step of the journey, to help them understand their role and realise the initial investment will reap benefits for them in the future. 

“From the start, we are there for our apprentices as much as our employers. We’re currently appointing a specialist Apprenticeship Recruitment and Engagement Officer who will raise awareness of the opportunities and vacancies to school leavers through events and careers fairs across the region. 

“Engaging parents is crucial – there are a lot of misconceptions around apprenticeships and how their child earning a wage will affect benefits for some households. We are hosting ‘Parent’s Evenings’ alongside Open Events to educate parents and their children. 

“They will also link in with students who may find their current education pathway is not for them but have not considered an apprenticeship. The big message is that apprenticeships are for everyone. If you don’t get one at 16, you can at 17, 18, 19, or later in your career. 

“We have a dedicated team to support the recruitment and selection process of candidates – we run face-to-face sessions for all our applicants before they meet the employer, offering guidance on CV writing and interview techniques. But we also ensure they know everything about the employer, what they are looking for and if the apprenticeship is right for them. Can they get there on the bus from where they live in the morning and be on time?  

“Then we will shortlist applicants, so the employer has the best candidates available and help with the onboarding process – many young people may not have a passport, driving license, for example, so there are barriers we will help them overcome. 

“For those who are unsuccessful, they will be placed in a ‘pool’ where we can promote apprenticeship vacancies to – if they don’t get an apprenticeship with their preferred employer, we can then match them with another. 

“Throughout their apprenticeship we will support them to ensure they are developing and progressing through regular meetings with their Trainer Assessors. 

“There is much more to be done and it will be a collaborative effort but by working together we can create a successful, sustainable apprenticeship system that unlocks talent, and supports businesses and the North East economy.” 

Why Education Partnership North East (EPNE)?

Highly commended - Employer of the Year, Sunderland Echo Portfolio Awards 2019

Engagement with Employers - Association of Colleges (AoC) Beacon Award 2017

(Sunderland College On-programme Survey 2017)

Selected by DfE for 2021 T Level pilot to deliver the new high-quality technical qualifications.

98% overall employer satisfaction - Employer Survey 2018/19