Manufacturers looking to start an apprenticeship programme often say finding the right candidate is one of the biggest challenges. This is a multi-faceted problem, with challenges ranging from attracting a sizeable pool of applicants to screening to reduce these initial applicants to a reasonable number and then interviewing techniques to determine the right culture and skill fit for the role.
Neu-Servo is a UK motor repair firm, specialising in the maintenance and repair of the motors, robots and machines used in automotive manufacturing. Neu-Servo recently chose to partner with EEF to start its apprenticeship programme this year.
Lee Robinson, sales manager at Neu-Servo, shared his advice for other manufacturers looking to get the right candidate for the role.
There are several key steps in creating an apprenticeship recruitment programme that attracts the right calibre of candidate:
Step 1: Define the job role
It is vitally important to define what job your apprentice will perform at your company both as an apprentice and – ideally – as a full-time employee someday. For one, it helps determine what sort of skills and attributes you want your apprentice to have (so you can look for them in your applicants). Secondly, it helps define which qualifications and training you want your apprentice to receive. A good place to start is to look at skill gaps in your company (both now and in the foreseeable future) and think about how an apprentice will fill them.
At Neu-Servo, we decided there were two apprentices we needed. One to focus on the mechanical side of repairs and the other to focus on the electronic side.
Step 2: Write a compelling job description
You likely find your industry and organisation to be a fascinating place to work, so it’s natural to assume that your potential apprentices will see the value of the role and company. However, the number of qualified candidates will depend on how well you ‘sell’ your apprenticeship in your job description.
Here are a few questions that can get you thinking about what to include in your description:
What will they learn on the job and during training?
Why is the company and job exciting?
Have you explained what the workplace environment is like?
How will they receive mentorship?
What roles within the company can an apprenticeship lead to?
Step 3: Find the right recruitment partner
In an ideal world, young people will simply flock to apply to your apprenticeship openings. However, there’s more to it than that. You’ll want to find an apprenticeship partner that can help guide you through recruiting your apprentice and beyond.
We previously worked with a different apprenticeship partner who didn’t approach recruiting in a way that suited us. We realized we needed a partner who could help recruit and screen candidates as well as oversee the specific training and qualifications we need our apprentices to receive (in our case, an NVQ in electronics or mechanical engineering). We decided to work with EEF after interacting with them through one of our clients who recommended EEF as their apprenticeship programme partner. We were also very impressed with their training site and the fact that they had some of the equipment, such as an IBB robot, that our apprentices would use on the job.
EEF, with its relationships with schools, colleges, career advisors and the manufacturing industry, can bring in a large number of qualified candidates. They also do the initial screening, with tests, long-form answers and phone interviews based on the skills and aptitudes we specify.
Step 4: Create a scoring matrix for your interview
Before you bring in your candidates for in-person interviews, it helps to define exactly what behaviours and aptitudes are most important to you.
For us at Neu-Servo, we realised the most important elements to us were a good work ethic, an interest in the industry, problem solving skills and initiative. We thought about how the candidates could demonstrate these attributes, such as asking lots of questions, showing an eagerness to see the job site and an interest in learning how things work.
For our two different apprenticeship roles we will interview for different personalities and interests. For our motor engineer, we’re looking for an extrovert who is hands-on. For the electronic engineer, we expect they’ll be more systematic, methodical and introverted.
As we move into the apprentice recruitment season, we’re looking forward to finding the right apprentices for our workplace.