Making the grade: How your apprenticeship programme can compete against the academic route | EEF

Making the grade: How your apprenticeship programme can compete against the academic route

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Young people have such an array of options of post-school options, manufacturers are finding it difficult to find and attract the best and brightest to fill their apprenticeship vacancies. This was a finding of EEF’s 2016 Skills Report, which identified several reasons for this challenge. As a top UK provider of manufacturing and engineering apprenticeships, EEF has compiled some useful tips for employers looking to showcase their vacancies as an attractive alternative to a traditional academic route.

Shrinking pool of qualified school leavers

As identified in the Skills Report the pace of STEM attainment and apprenticeship promotion remains slow. The declining number of young people are pursuing ‘practical subjects’, such as design and technology, at the GCSE and A Level means engineering companies must vigourously compete for a shrinking pool of potential qualified apprentices.


Additionally, the report found that “the odds remain heavily in favour of a more academic route as schools, particularly those with a sixth form attached, are incentivised to keep young people on at Key Stage 5. The result of this is an overwhelming number of young people moving into a school sixth form after Key Stage 4 (39%) and a worryingly low number (5%) moving on to an apprenticeship.”

So what can a manufacturer do to compete against the academic route and fill their apprenticeship vacancies?

Add some excitement to your job descriptions

An apprenticeship vacancy advert is about more than just dryly copying and pasting your company bio, listing an hourly rate and describing a few of the key job responsibilities. Just as colleges and universities showcase the quality of their education, campus life and post grad career opportunities, manufacturers should ensure the long term value of their apprenticeship opportunities:

  • Many young people are not aware of the fantastic qualifications – from BTEC to NVQ Level 3 – they can receive through an apprenticeship. Be clear on what skills and qualifications apprentices will receive.
  • Do your apprentices end up staying on with your company? How are they trained and mentored? Where can an apprenticeship take them? These are the kind of facts you should share in your apprenticeship job description. On your website, think about sharing some real life stories of how leaders in your organisation started in apprenticeships or rose through the ranks thanks to your strong mentorship programme.
  • The increasing cost of education should drive more young people toward apprenticeships. Let applicants know they can save potentially tens of thousands in student debt, while earn an immediate pay check.


Access a network of school advisers and potential apprentices

Finding the right place to post your vacancies where they will receive due attention from school advisers and potential apprentices is vital. For example, EEF’s vacancy database is visited by thousands of young people interested in apprenticeships each month (not to mention promoting vacancies through Facebook and Twitter where potential apprentices can be found). And through our network of events for school advisers, we ensure young people are aware of the apprenticeship options available to them.


Choose a qualified training provider

A strong delivery partner can make or break an employer’s apprenticeship programme. A training provider that can ensure a bespoke skills and qualifications plan specifically required by an employer is uniformly delivered across the organisation (and organisation locations). Even if apprentices don’t start with the practical skills they need to succeed, a strong training programme can ensure they are properly developed for success.


Lend your voice to the cause

As the manufacturers’ organisation, EEF represents the sentiments and best interests of its members to government. Through its research and surveys (such as the Skills Report) as well as continual campaigning to policymakers, EEF can amplify the industry’s voice.

To become part of shaping this voice, consider EEF membership.


To learn how your company can recruit and train the best apprentices for your skills gap, contact the EEF Apprentice team.


This person has now left EEF. Please contact us on 0808 168 1874 or email us at if you have any questions.

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