Hundreds of UK employers plan to move their recruitment away from graduates to school leavers as companies seek to diversify their rental flows in the light of skills shortages.
About 23 percent of companies surveyed by the Institute of Student Employers that support graduate recruiters plan to “rebalance” appointments from college or college dropouts to young people who only have school-level education.
The figures come as the government seeks to respond to the continuing national skills shortage by send students away from universities and to further education, through shorter courses in colleges or apprenticeships, which are less expensive for the Treasury.
Yet companies and trading bodies say they have seen little progress in long-term government efforts to boost skills and have turned to less traditional hiring schemes to gain access to new talent and train workers themselves.
“It’s driven a lot by the fact that there is a real shortage of people with the right skills,” said Antony Walker, Deputy CEO of Trade Body techUK. “Companies are increasingly asking what we can do to open up a wider set of routes.”
He added that rather than abandoning graduate recruitment, employers have diversified their channels to early-career employment, as government efforts to expand further education do not fit the scale of the challenge.
Stephen Isherwood, head of the Institute for Student Employers, said the shift to recruiting school leavers was partly driven by the introduction of the apprenticeship levy, a 0.5 percent reduction on employers’ wage bills used to fund apprenticeships. Because employers are required to pay the levy, they are forced to take creative approaches to spending it.
But Isherwood added the shift was also driven by a need for more specific skills than those focused by a graduate job market on “generic” college education rather than vocational training.
After the pandemic disrupted the appointment of graduates in 2020, competition for graduate positions increased by 17 percent in 2021 compared to the previous year, to a record high of 91 applications for every available position, according to ISE.
However, among the positions advertised for school leavers, there were 67 applications per vacancy. The appointment of this group grew by 14 percent in 2021 after remaining stable during the Covid crisis.
Grant Thornton, an accounting and consulting firm, said school leavers accounted for 10-15 percent of their student intake in 2011. In recent years, it has almost doubled, and by 2022 the company hopes to increase the ratio again to 40 percent. .
Richard Waite, head of resources and global mobility, said there were a “number of reasons” for the expansion. “We are really committed to building diverse groups of students for the organization and by exploiting schools and colleges, we can leverage more diverse talent streams,” he said.
For example, to qualify as professional business advisors in audit tax and consulting, 18-year-olds must complete a five-year program to obtain a professional qualification. School leavers on the course need to undergo more training than their graduate peers, but end up with the same qualifications.
In the technology sector, the gap between the needs of employers and the skills of workers is particularly deep. Data compiled by the job search engine Adzuna shows that more than 100,000 vacancies for technology have been posted on their website every week for the past 12 months.
Recruitment of school leavers can also be driven by difficulties in finding suitable graduates. Graduate vacancies have increased by 20 percent compared to 2019, according to separate figures released by ISE, and nearly one in five employers reported that the quality of graduates has declined.
Lisa Rose, national human resources leader at Accenture, a professional services company, said in the context of the UK’s ‘well-documented skills shortage’, technology “accelerated faster than the pipeline of people … available to fill the gaps”.
The company said recruiting school leavers as apprentices would help it “gain access to a wider and more diverse pool of talent” in its quest to create 3,000 technology jobs over the next three years.
At Fujitsu, a multinational technology company, head of talent Nick White said the need for workers with strong control of specific skills means recruiting school leavers is focused on the “more technical” side of the business.
“If you want to learn how to code, you just have to learn how to code,” he said. “You have to make mistakes, get into them and work with other like-minded people.”
The company has traditionally recruited up to 100 graduates a year, but after a change of strategy, half of that number are now grade learners – taken by school leavers resulting in a grade level qualification. But White says there is still demand for graduates.
“What graduates will often learn is, yes, some critical thinking through an academic route, but they also lived in shared homes, they had to solve problems around dealing with other people in a safe environment,” he said. he said.
The Department of Education said apprenticeships were a “fantastic way for people of all ages to develop skills they needed to advance in careers”, and said employers would be eligible for a £ 3,000 incentive to employ apprentices until 31 January 2022.
“Addressing the skills gaps so that employers have access to the workforce they need for the future remains at the heart of our education and training reforms and our Skills Bill.”