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Getting the Board on Board: 3 Tips to Help You Win Internal Buy-in for Apprenticeships

By Euan Blair

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Those of us who have worked with apprentices, don't need to be sold on their value. But what about the rest of the org?

For many companies, there is a major lack of understanding about what an apprenticeships scheme can do for the business—or, in some cases, what it even is.

If you're ready to set up an apprenticeship programme, but you're not sure everyone else is, read on. We've compiled three expert tips to help you win over your internal stakeholders.

First, know what's valued internally

If you're in HR, you're familiar with the challenge of having to quantify intangible outcomes, such as employee experience or company culture.

Before you spend days prepping the perfect apprenticeships presentation, take a minute to get clear on what your key stakeholders really want to see. You may need to join forces with finance, marketing and other departments to determine which objectives are on the top of their list and brainstorm ways to connect those outcomes to your scheme proposal.

It might sound like a lot of work but trust us, you'll be glad you did it.

When you rally early support, people will be much more likely to have your back when it's time for a decision to be made.

Tip #1. Start with the Levy

Apprenticeships are about so much more than the Levy, but that doesn't the fact that loss aversion is a very real phenomenon(opens new window).

Basically, we humans don't like missing out on things. So, when it comes to getting all the right signatures on your perfect-fit apprenticeship scheme, FOMO is your friend.

  • Work with finance to find the exact amount of money paid into the Levy.
  • Remind your stakeholders of the 'use it or lose it' nature of this investment.
  • Combine this info with data on the ROI of building a diverse workforce.

For Emma Bond, Global Lead of Entry Level Hiring at Kantar, what started as a conversation about money, quickly turned into something much larger.

“We first started thinking about apprentices when I was heading up graduate recruitment and we thought ‘OK, can we bring in some apprentices rather than graduates?’ And there was the question of how to use the levy pot. But it was more than that—a huge focus was to increase the diversity of our workforce, but also support greater diversity of thought internally as well,” she says.

Tip #2. Explain the diversity benefits

In today's talent landscape, diversity is a top priority for many organisations.

Unlike policy changes, check-box D&I programmes or lip-service initiatives, apprenticeships are a ground-up approach to achieving true diversity and inclusion.

And there are some major business benefits to be had:

“We wanted to utilise the Levy and find a better way to recruit for entry-level talent. But beyond that, we wanted to diversify our talent pool. We've really only had talent coming through from very prestigious Oxbridge universities and while that's great, we also want to look in other places for hidden gems and hidden talents,” says Laura Tomsett, Recruitment Advisor, Christie’s.

An even more relevant topic, as the face of Christie's customer base evolves.

"This is especially important with new art markets emerging and different people collecting now. We had the George Michael sale recently, we had David Gilmour's guitars—these are all sales that appeal to way more people than just art collectors. It’s important that we have people within the business who reflect those buyers. The art market has never been so open and we need the right people to drive that forward," she explains.

Tip #3. Be ready to handle objections

Let's face it. A big reason your stakeholders are resisting apprenticeships is because they've been burnt in the past.

It's a complaint we hear time and time again at WhiteHat.

From overpromising on the number of candidates to simply not understanding the true nature of the business and roles within it, James Brewin, Talent Acquisition Director at Publicis Media was tired of his apprenticeships suppliers missing the mark.

He knew if he were ever going to succeed in making diversity a reality(opens new window) for the business, he'd need a fresh start with a new provider. By the time he reached out to us, he was up against some hard questions internally due to bad past experiences.

“From the first day we met them, it was so easy—there was no bull, no overpromising and underdelivering. It was immediately clear Sophie and her team understood the market and landscape,” says James.

Be prepared to share your provider's approach to finding and developing quality candidates and make sure to inform your stakeholders about the kind of support they can expect on an ongoing basis.

“It's so good to see senior leads who now believe this is the best thing that's happened for their business. We have brands that have never taken an apprentice before, step up and take on some of the largest cohorts we've ever seen. It's a huge step in the right direction towards diversifying the brands at Publicis Media. Today, we have 33 apprentices in the building. It's amazing,” says James.

With a little internal collaboration and the right information, you can make it easy for everyone to reap the benefits of apprenticeships.

Euan Blair

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