3 ways to ‘grow your own’ skilled workforce

Members of the skilled workforce, like this fine fellow, are in short supply these days ... photo by CC user chrishunkeler on Flickr

Far from being able to pick and choose between quality applicants, many firms are faced with a struggle when it comes getting the right staff on board. The skills gap has consequences for all businesses – not least when it comes to time wasted in sifting through mountains of CVs looking for suitably qualified individuals.

So why not look at ways to address the causes of the problem? Modern apprenticeships, university placements and even school work experience schemes can offer businesses of all sizes a way to take a hands-on role in helping to mold the next generation of employees.

These are not quick-fix solutions for your next recruitment drive (or even the one after that). Think of it as a long ball strategy: a way to spot talent, to make it clear that your organisation has something to offer and to build valuable local links.

Modern Apprenticeships

According to Parliamentary statistics, there were 440,000 apprenticeship starts in England last year. A glance over the list of schemes available shows that virtually all industry sectors are covered – from the type of trades traditionally associated with apprenticeships such as engineering and construction through to leisure, digital media and ICT.

Aged 16 or over, apprentices combine work with studying for a vocational qualification – from GCSE up to degree level. The external training usually takes place via day release to a further education college or local training centre.

The minimum wage for apprentices aged 16 to 18 (or aged 19 in their first year) is currently £2.73. What’s more, as of this year, companies with less than 50 employees with the capacity to take on up five apprentices may be eligible for a £1,500 apprenticeship grant.

It would be misleading to regard apprentices as merely a handy source of cheap labour, however. Adherence to the Specification standard (SASE), the need for ongoing assessment and monitoring means taking on an apprentice represents a real commitment.

Liaising with academia

Many undergraduate courses incorporate a year spent on a work placement – and the destinations of choice for students are not limited to huge corporations.

Taking on students can be a useful way of drafting in extra resources to deal with a short or medium term project – although businesses should bear in mind that raw recruits coming straight from college are unlikely to ‘hit the ground running’ so far as productivity is concerned.

Doing it right means having the resources on hand to provide mentoring and support – and provides the opportunity to showcase your business to the best new graduates without having to get recruitment agencies involved.

Working with schools

How do you respond to requests from schools to get involved with work experience? Where resources are stretched already, your staff may not take kindly to the idea of having to supervise youngsters for a week or two. Don’t overlook the potential benefits, though.

Work experience can give employees the chance to develop their mentoring and management skills. Building links with schools also means the potential for putting out positive signals not just to future recruits but also to teachers and parents.

Work experience isn’t the only way to build links, either. There may also be possibilities to participate through presentations and workshops. Don’t overlook your safeguarding responsibilities, however: before getting involved in work experience, liaise with your insurance providers to ensure you are adequately covered.

If you or your staff are involved in activities on school premises, you should be covered by insurance for schools – although once again, it is worth checking the position with your own providers.

Each of these activities gives you the opportunity to establish yourself as an authority; as a ‘go to’ organisation for youngsters looking to enter the world of work. It’s a matter of give and take: you must be willing and able to devote a certain amount of time to ensure that the young people involved can take something valuable from the process.

In turn, you have the chance to grow your database of potential future recruits – with the benefit of having seen them in action.