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Building the future organisation through apprenticeships at Nationwide Building Society

May 31, 2023
Sova Assessment

‘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.

Nationwide’s commitment to apprenticeships

“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 Nationwide potential model

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.

Recruiting apprentices in the new world of work

Compared to previous apprenticeship intakes what’s changed due to the pandemic?

  • The candidate journey is more important than ever before, says Hannah, and this has been a focus of the new assessment solution. “If we get 4,700 applications, that’s 4,700 people who might be Nationwide customers. We are a fair employer, and we want to be seen as fair in the recruitment process regardless of the outcome.”
  • Virtual assessment has provided the opportunity for an upfront situational judgement questionnaire to give a realistic job preview. “Those who get through the initial stages must have an understanding of what the role entails day to day whether it be in finance, HR, risk, or in a branch”, says Hannah. This stage allows candidates to de-select if it’s not for them.
  • The new assessment solution has significantly reduced administration for Hannah and her team. “Last year, the level of administration was high for assessment centres and limited in terms of what we could do.”
  • More robust onboarding processes and additional management training will better support both apprentices and graduates who are starting their new roles remotely. Regular catch ups, presentations, Q&A sessions, IT and systems set up sessions are part of the process.

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.”

Building the future

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:

  1. Recruit for potential, not experience so you can ‘grow your own’. Recruit for behaviours, values, strength and ambition in early career hiring.
  2. Improve diversity in the hiring funnel by using whole person assessment to measure all the factors that matter at once.
  3. Design an end-to-end seamless assessment journey that provides an outstanding candidate experience, at scale, without compromising on anything else.

The Sova team wishes Nationwide every success with their apprenticeship recruitment which commences this week.

Changing assessment for good
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