Youngsters let down by poor service

Youngsters let down by poor service

Zeal Media founder Jane Slimming is a fan of apprenticeship schemes... but not of disorganised recruitment firms who mess up the process.

Writing around 500 words about any subject I have an opinion on is quite a daunting task, especially for someone who has pretty strong opinions and quite often speaks before she thinks. I floated a few topics around the agency that were instantly vetoed, “northern agencies are far superior to London agencies in every possible way” and “my thoughts on female only networking events” but settled on a topic that I’m genuinely passionate about; the Apprenticeship Scheme.

In theory, the Apprenticeship Scheme is a great idea. It allows young people to go straight from school to the work place, gives them job skills and real life experience. Best case scenario is that they come out of the year with a full time job, worst case scenario; they have a qualification they can take with them to another position. Then there’s the benefit of actually getting paid and not having that pesky student loan.

On the plus side for the employer it’s all good here too. We get a keen, energetic, eager-to-learn young person who we can mould and grow into the exact right employee. As an employer we dedicate time and resource into training the apprentice but the lower wage and the Government subsidiary make that training commercially viable for us as a business.

I’m massively pro the Apprenticeship Scheme. I think it makes perfect sense for both parties and I think it’s a huge opportunity. This is why I get incredibly angry when companies, paid by the government to implement this scheme, get it so badly wrong. Not only do they risk individual placements but also the scheme as a whole by turning people off the whole idea.

We decided to get involved in the scheme and were promised by three different recruitment agencies the following process: They would come and meet us face to face to really get to know our business. We provide a thorough job description. They advertise the job. They go through the applications, carry out phone interviews, then face-to-face interviews with candidates that they feel are best suited and finally send us four applicants to interview. We then decide out of those candidates who to hire. Having done some research this process is what most of these recruitment agencies claim to offer.

Our experience and that of many friends and contacts of mine is as follows. Candidates not turning up. Candidates turning up to the wrong place on the wrong date, or either candidates being wildly inappropriate for the role or us being wildly inappropriate for the candidate. We had one candidate that we offered a role to, only to be told that he was “too old” for the scheme to then find out later that he wasn’t. It was confusing, frustrating and essentially unpleasant. We persisted with it and now have a great new addition to the team, but our experience left me wondering how many people just thought “sod it…I’ll just get a graduate”.

Companies and candidates embarking on the Apprenticeship Scheme are stepping into the unknown. It’s new and it’s a bit scary. If the ‘recruitment companies’ set up to help place the candidates don’t do their job properly (out of 29 people I interviewed only six had a phone interview prior and only three had met up face to face with the recruitment company) then we’ll very quickly be put off.

In order for the scheme to truly work across all industries we need recruitment agencies who can understand the role and send us suitable people to interview. It’s not rocket science!

This scheme has the potential to help young apprentices as well as companies willing to offer a structured helping hand. The scheme is about encouraging and offering these individuals an environment which is invaluable to them; preparing them for their working life and future.

However, without the basics beforehand we can’t help a sinking ship.