How to attract good apprentices to the exhibition stand design and build industry
Posted by Tom Oakes
Nobody needs to be reminded that we have a national skills shortage in the UK. Astro Exhibitions has a long and proud tradition of investing in our apprenticeship programme with much success but still, we struggle to attract young school leavers to the exhibition stand design and build industry. As part of National Apprenticeship Week I have decided to compile the best hints and tips for attracting good apprenticeship applications based on my own research and the experience we have built up over the last 10 years of running an apprenticeship programme.
Why should I start an apprenticeship programme?
There are many reasons to start an apprenticeship programme. You can help to build yourself a skilled workforce that specialises in your industry. This can be especially important when recruiting in a specialised industry like trade show and exhibition design. A high proportion of apprentices continue their employment with their original employer so you can help ensure the long term sustainability of your business. An apprenticeship scheme puts you in control and helps you to plug the skills gap in your company or organisation.
- Apprentices help build a skilled workforce
- They provide a long term positive return on investment
- They are often highly motivated workers given their choice to enter the programme
- They are a sustainable way of building a business
- There is significant support available to help you create an apprenticeship programme
What do I need to know?
The government are committed to increasing the number of apprenticeships to 3 million by the year 2020. Currently there are around 2.3 million participants in an apprenticeship scheme in the UK. As you can see the government continue to have a big job on their hands. That means there has never been more support or a better time for your company to get involved. There are plenty of incentives and financial support out there and plenty of resources to help you better understand how an apprenticeship can work for you.
Remember what the industry has to offer!
The trade show and exhibition stand design and build industry is a great place to work. How many industries can offer young people skills in so many different trades? Our stand builders are trained in a range of different skills from bench and site joinery, electrics, painting and decorating as well as graphics and HGV driving. Of course an apprentice will specialise in one area but very few industries offer experience in such a wide range of desirable skills and oh yeah; YOU ALSO GET TO TRAVEL THE WORLD! We are only in March and Astro Exhibitions this year has already delivered jobs to Dusseldorf, Brussels, Bologna and Amsterdam.
But that’s only manufacturing and production. The trade show industry is an incredibly vibrant and creative industry to work in for budding designers, graphic artists and future creative directors and marketing execs. And let’s not forget project management. The high intensity nature of the industry produces some of the best creative and marketing project managers you can hope to meet. Do we do enough to sell ourselves compared to for example the building trade? Possibly not.
Creating an apprenticeship programme
If your business is under 250 employees there is plenty of support to help you build an apprenticeship programme. You will need to work with a training provider (local school or college) in building your programme. As an employer you will need to:
- Employ and apprentice for a minimum of 30 hours per week.
- Pay at least the national minimum wage for an apprentice which is currently £3.30 ph
- Induct and support an apprentice with pro-active on the job learning
- Actively review your apprentices progress
Your training provider will need to:
- Help identify an apprentice that fits your business requirements
- Create a training plan that suits the apprentice and your requirements
- Review and test the progress of your apprentice
- Provide support in the knowledge elements of the programme
Once you have committed to creating an apprenticeship programme the government have created a small business team to help work with you to hire an apprentice. You can contact the small business team here or on 08000 150 600.
Attracting an apprentice -Think local
Once you have decided to start an apprenticeship programme its time to attract applicants. First things first, think local. In order to attract good quality apprenticeship applications it is essential to have a good partnership with your local school or college:
- Research shows that career advisors are not doing a great job of promoting apprenticeships, this does mean you will have to do some of the leg work yourself.
- Research has shown that as much as 18% of students still think an apprenticeship is unpaid. It is vital that you are able to sell the benefits of an apprenticeship and what an apprenticeship with you can offer.
- Peer to peer networking is essential to young people and being able to get your message across. The more relevant information you give them the broader your net will span.
- Kids will respond to you if you are able to show passion for what you do. The best way to do this is by engaging with them face to face. Who can sell your business better than you can?
Approaching local schools needn’t be difficult. They are often very keen to help. Being aware of any local career days or local jobs fairs are essential but you can always go one step further and arrange to attend an assembly, a class or set up a stall for the day in the cafeteria. Arrange a talk or make sure you have visibility during school events. A few flyers won’t break the bank.
Remember, Apprentices won’t necessarily be lining up at your door to join you, they are out there but young people are bombarded with career advice at school and college and options for further education are ever increasing. A great way to help sell your business as a viable career option and attract the best young apprentice applications is through a properly organised open day arranged through your local school or college. Here are a few tips to making an open day successful:
- Plan ahead; Make sure your open day is scheduled and planned properly. It doesn’t need to be more than 2 hours long but should feel professional and organised.
- A professional and engaging presentation is essential. Don’t wing it on the day. Potential apprentices will want to feel they will be looked after and that starts the first time they walk through your door.
- Engage with the applicants not just their parents. Free tea and coffee can often be a welcome distraction for the parents giving you the opportunity to talk to the applicants themselves.
- A tour of your facility is a given, but make sure that your work force knows this will be taking place. Bad language and scruffy attire is a definite no no. Presentation and perception starts on the workshop floor.
- An open day should not be completed without an opportunity for applicants to ask questions. Remember, this can often be a young person’s first job so be patient and make sure they are given contact details to be able to ask any questions later.
Get on board
The key to attracting and retaining a good apprentice and providing a successful apprenticeship programme is engagement from everyone involved within your business. From your board level to your employees who will be helping train and support your apprentices, if everyone understands the importance of running a successful programme the apprentices you attract are far more likely to have a positive experience which will build loyalty and ultimately create for you a better skilled employee.
The benefits of running an apprenticeship programme are almost endless. We at Astro Exhibitions cannot recommend it highly enough. One of our core principles is to create a legacy not only within the trade show and exhibition industry but also our local community and an apprenticeship programme is an ideal way of doing this.