Despite the continued weakness of the economy, the number of people employed in Britain reached record levels with almost 30 million working at the end of 2012.
However employment levels for recent graduates has remained largely unchanged at 61.8% for 2012,according to Higher Education Careers Service Unit (HECSU) data.
“This could be attributed to the fact that many employers are asking for recent graduates with work experience to fill entry-level roles,” Adam Herron COO of Human Capital Investment Group (HCIG) says.
“It can be very intimidating for a graduate or young person looking for work via entry level roles or traineeships and still be expected to have one to two years’ industry experience.
“In turn, it can be difficult for businesses lacking the right infrastructure to be able to facilitate the development and support of young people who can grow their business.”
Herron explains it’s often a Catch 22 situation for many agencies, but with the recent announcement of the recruitment sector’s first apprenticeship dedicated to ensuring learners gain skills and experience pertinent to the industry, he is confident more recruitment companies will be encouraged to take on apprentices.
The recruitment apprenticeship scheme is being launched by the Institute of Recruiters (IOR) in collaboration with Expedient Training Consultancy and Skillsfirst Awards. It will offer students the opportunity to gain the IOR’s widely recognised Professional Recruitment Qualification.
“The new apprenticeship which will be available from 1 March, has already gained the support of James Caan, CEO of Hamilton Bradshaw, HCIG’s primary shareholder, and we hope support and momentum for apprenticeships and graduate recruitment continues to pick up pace.”
“Since 2011, HCIG companies have been providing pathways to employment for over 45 apprentices, placing them into critical business areas including finance, sales, accounts, HR, IT and marketing,” Herron adds.
But it doesn’t stop there. One of HCIG’s most successful social care joint ventures, Caritas Recruitment, is currently embarking on a recruitment drive to bring recent graduates to the company, which Herron says demonstrates the kind of freedom and flexibility being part of HCIG offers.
“Developing top talent is just one of the ways we support our companies and HCIG’s multi-brand model gives us the ability to attract the best talent and provide the resources our companies need to fast-track sustainable growth,” he explains.
SME atmosphere with large company benefits
One of the key benefits HCIG can offer graduates and apprentices joining one of its portfolio companies, is the support and individual care of being part of a SME, while enjoying the security and access to over nine recruitment agencies with different work cultures and specialisms that being part of HCIG provides.
And this makes working for a company in the HCIG portfolio very attractive for graduates, budding apprentices or other jobseekers looking for entry level recruitment roles, as Caritas recently discovered.
After receiving over 500 applications for the recently advertised six entry-level positions available, Debbie Smith, Caritas CEO, says the company has worked hard to develop the right infrastructure to support graduates coming into the business.
“It is a buoyant market; the company is growing and we are thinking of the future,” Smith explains.
“We have a solid foundation of experience in Caritas comprising of expert consultants divided into dedicated teams within the company.
‘The new graduates coming on board will be allocated to a specific team and sector and then will have the opportunity to rotate around the group and learn about new specialisms.”
When it came to recruiting and assessing graduates, Smith says she decided not to follow conventional recruitment routes but instead concentrated on conducting assessment days and fittingly, a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style of activities.
“Exercises used in the assessment days were designed to showcase the skills needed to be a successful recruitment consultant: drive, very good communication skills and self-management amongst other things.”
Graduates hired as part of Caritas’s programme will undertake a traineeship for one year and then step up to consultant to ensure they are fully trained and prepared before facing clients and candidates.
“We are really excited about this next phase in hiring Caritas’s consultants of the future,’ Smith adds.
“The coming year is looking bright for Caritas and we look forward to growing the company and further developing new graduates and our existing employees.”
Often companies that are critical of apprenticeships have had negative experiences with recent graduates or school leavers who accept positions that aren’t the right fit, or have unrealistic expectations for their entry level employees.
However, CEO of technical and construction recruitment specialist Resourcing Group, Jason Bowler says he prefers to see these challenges as opportunities.
We see apprentices as Resourcing Group’s future high performers and they form part of our strategy for growth – people you can mentor and develop on a day-to-day basis with access to some of the best recruiters in the business.
“Also coming in as an apprentice means you are working in a less stressful environment (not having to meet sales targets) so this gives them the freedom and supportive environment to best develop their talent.”
And how does Resourcing Group ensure that the company’s high performers ensure they have the time to develop the apprentices they are mentoring?
“Because we encourage our consultants to run their own desks like mini-businesses, we have a unique system where our consultants must make the business case for taking on an apprentice. This means our consultants take personal responsibility for the development of their apprentices as they form part of the consultant’s business.’
Multi-sector recruitment agency Eden Brown, which is HCIG’s largest acquisition to date, also encourages their consultants to recruit and develop apprentices.
“We like apprentices because of their pace and energy,” David McLean-Reid, Eden Brown’s CEO, explains. “And in turn we enable them to have exposure to a corporate environment that they might not have had before.”
“Our apprentices get all the opportunities that being part of a medium to large organisation offers – training, 360 degree reviews, high quality training opportunities – the same as everyone else in the company from the top down,” he adds.
According to McLean-Reid, the obvious benefits of 12 months’ training for Eden Brown’s apprentices is the fact they have also been immersed in the company’s workplace culture for this period of time.
“This places our apprentices significantly on the fast-track to being a leading recruiter at a young age – small business benefits with a large corporate outlook.”
Apprenticeships and graduate schemes are a vital opportunity to help young people develop workplace skills in a nurturing and supporting environment. Having trained more than 40 apprentices, it is clear that the benefits are never one-sided. Young people offer an injection of passion and enthusiasm, bringing fresh ideas and new insights as well as being hardworking and eager to learn.
The introduction of a dedicated recruitment apprenticeship for England and Wales will provide the recruitment industry with a standard level of specialist training which will help drive the industry forward. Not only will the new programme offer young people the opportunity to explore the recruitment industry; it will give recruitment agencies the opportunity to learn from the consultants of the future.