How to Market Apprenticeships to School Leavers

Want to be an apprentice?Apprenticeships are at the heart of what many providers offer. Marketing apprenticeships is therefore a key activity and should repay with a big ROI.

Apprenticeship marketing isn’t always as straight forward as it might be … and here are some tips on how it can be done well. But first let’s take a quick look at poor apprenticeship marketing and learn lessons from other people’s mistakes!

How not to market apprenticeships

As is often the case, the worst marketing method is to follow the path of least resistance. For example some providers adopt the following attitude to apprenticeship marketing.
When prospective students call they say ….. “Yes, we do apprenticeships – look at our website” ….or … “we could send you a brochure if you like”.
They continue, “After that it’s up to you. Just fill in the form and we will be in touch sometime.”
When no one send back a form the attitude is” Oh – you’ve decided to go somewhere else, have you? Well, that’s up to you.”
The “somewhere” else they have decided to go to is likely a provider that does not follow the path of least resistance. It will, instead, be an establishment that engages with school leavers with the same degree of effort and imagination that it uses to engage with employers.
But then effective marketing takes some effort.

Engaging with school leavers before they leave school

School Visits
Curriculum teams or schools liaison should be busy visiting schools and spreading the word. This does not mean a short talk to a bunch of youngsters who are relieved to be missing a Maths lesson. It means creating and delivering a compelling presentation that will interest and, if possible, entertain your audience, as well as informing them about the apprenticeships that you offer.

This is not an easy skill to master, just because someone is good in front of a class doesn’t mean they can do this as well. But the curriculum or school liaison team should make a maximum effort and use all the presentational skills they have available. They should also ensure that any written material they provide should be interesting and be jargon free. Remember the objective is to engage with prospective pupils, not dissuade them.

For example I was recently asked to run an apprenticeship event at a school. The apprenticeship being promoted was catering and I wanted to wow the audience enough for them to take catering seriously. So I got one of the chefs from the college to flambé some crepes. A simple task .. but the drama that flaming brandy provided was compelling. Young people with little interest in catering, because they didn’t understand what it was about, suddenly came alive. A large number signed up for a taster course and the application forms flowed in after the taster had taken place.

Once you have schools in the loop you need to keep them there. Offer repeat performances with other apprenticeships. If you have a Job Shop, where employers can recruit direct from your college, then get it to keep in regular touch with the schools with information about all that is of relevance to school leavers, especially news about apprenticeship opportunities.

Open Days
College Open Days demand a different approach to School Visits. There is no semi-captive audience here; people have attended because they want to. But many young people and their parents have no idea what options are available and most have no idea about what apprenticeships can offer. They also have no understanding of the jargon used by providers.

So give thought to your displays or stands and make them eye catching and relevant to the audience. Curriculum team members will need to know their stuff; and I don’t just mean about their frameworks. They need to understand all about apprenticeships in general. So many times I’ve heard curriculum staff say they know nothing about an apprenticeship outside their subject so can’t advise. They tell people to come back later when their colleague is available; when really the visitor only wanted a general introduction to apprenticeships.. not turning away. There is a need to train all staff in being able to talk generically about apprenticeships. Likewise there is a need for a culture change to enable this attitude in many establishments.

The best people to give information about apprenticeships aren’t provider staff. It is employers and apprentices.

So get your employers and apprentices involved in these events. A would-be gas fitter will appreciate the opportunity to talk to a real gas-fitter. Bring employers and future employees together.

Advertise Apprenticeships Appropriately
Yes, some young people do read the newspapers but not so many as in the days before the digital revolution. Tailor your advertising to the way today’s potential apprentices live.

For example young people and a lot of parents hang out on Facebook! So advertise there.
A recent campaign we ran for one provider, in one month saw 6014 visitors to their website from Facebook ads alone. There was a good conversion to Open Day and Taster courses and the campaign only cost 27 pence per website visitor.

You must make Facebook ads compelling. Because they utilise intrusive marketing (no one goes to Facebook looking for ads) relevant images are essential. So are constant planned image changes in a series of high impact short duration campaigns.

For Open Days and other events you might also consider radio ads. They can be very effective if used generically but are more expensive than social media advertising.

The above are just a sample of marketing and promotional ideas you can use to market apprenticeships to young people and their parents. Each subject and geographic area has different needs and each campaign will therefore be unique.

However you need to bear in mind that although effective marketing is not necessarily expensive in terms of money. It does however demand time, thought, engagement and commitment.

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