‘Build the Future’ is the theme for Apprenticeship Week 2021 and never has this sentiment been more meaningful. After a year of lockdowns, postponements and cutbacks, what does the future hold for apprenticeships?
Judging by our experience over the past 12 months, the outlook is promisingly positive. To illustrate the future of apprenticeship programmes, we asked Hannah Middleditch, Strategic Resourcing Manager at Nationwide Building Society and Sova client, to talk to us about Nationwide’s early career hiring plans.
At Nationwide, where apprenticeships have been part of talent development for many years, the team kicks off the programme as part of Apprenticeship Week every year. This year, the process will be different for a number of reasons. Firstly, Hannah and her team expect a huge uptick in applications. Plus, this cohort of apprentices will be the first applicants to go through a new assessment journey that has been developed in partnership with Sova. Lastly, the apprentices will start their roles remotely after attending a fully virtual assessment programme.
“We’re in an enviable position in that we’ve been able to maintain demand from a lot of our business areas that want to bring on the fresh talent” says Hannah. “As a business we are committed to continuing with our programme and we know it’s important to society as a whole. Especially now during the pandemic, this demographic will be hard hit and a key driver for us is to help this group.”
This year, Nationwide had 600 apprenticeship candidates preregistered for the process before the programme had officially launched and a surge in applications is expected. Based on the 60% uplift in graduate applications to Nationwide this year, Hannah expects the same increase in candidate numbers for apprentices not only in 2021, but in the next three years at least.
The recruitment process for apprentices is based on Nationwide’s potential model which is the basis for the new virtual assessment solution: “We’re looking for those who have the potential to progress, not those skills right now. For example, the final interview is strength based rather than competency based”, says Hannah.
Given the expected popularity of the programme, it was important to have the new process ready to deal with high volumes of applications in a way that will not compromise candidate experience. The new assessment journey is fully virtual. Candidates will use one fully branded platform for screening, psychometric assessments, video interview, virtual assessment centre, group exercises, role plays and written exercises.
Compared to previous apprenticeship intakes what’s changed due to the pandemic?
Looking forward, Hannah predicts that Nationwide will be able to attract more diverse talent now that location and travel are less important. “We have historically targeted school leavers from the Wiltshire region to recruit into our head office Apprenticeship programmes. Whilst we are continuing to promote the roles locally, there is now much more emphasis on UK wide attraction methods to make sure we give everyone a fair chance at applying.”
According to the Institute of Student Employers (ISE), 86% of school and college hires are enrolled on an apprenticeship. The ISE also reported that the number of school and college leavers recruited by ISE members in 2020 rose by 6% but that graduate numbers fell by 12%.
These trends signify how important it is that organisations can successfully assess early career candidates who have little or no job experience – fairly and with the business goals in mind. At Sova, this is very much part of our philosophy:
The Sova team wishes Nationwide every success with their apprenticeship recruitment which commences this week.