A school leaver is 16-18 years old and has left full-time education after completing their GCSEs or A-Levels. Over the last few years, the UK has seen fewer heading for higher education.
Brexit has made it more complicated for overseas students to study here, the pandemic has left many people worried about potential future lockdowns impacting their education, and the staggering 50% rise in university fees this academic year has fuelled affordability concerns.
With that in mind, around half of the UK’s school leavers opt for apprenticeships and full-time employment instead of going to university. This could be a huge opportunity for small business owners looking to integrate new talent into their teams.
Below, company formation agent, 1st Formations, unpacks this topic and explores the advantages of employing school leavers through training programmes like internships. If this is the right business move for you, they’ll also explain how and where to start.
Particularly in the uncertain times that we’ve had since the pandemic (followed by a recession alert), the main thing that company owners will want to know is if a business decision will pay off.
Hiring young and inexperienced people might seem risky, but you might be surprised by the passion, proactivity, and dedication that you’ll find in school leavers.
Here are some of the main ways in which they can positively impact your company:
1. Develop the right skills for your business
If you’re struggling to find the right people or skills to grow your company, hiring a school offers a flexible way of forming the talent that you need, adapting your team, and tailoring your ways of working.
Provided that they have the right basic work skills and personal traits that fit your existing team, their professional skills can be moulded to suit your business needs and their professional development.
2. Find passionate employees
Like the above, school leavers tend to be very passionate, engaged, and interested. They’re keen to get their professional lives off the ground, so they’re excited to get started and have a hands-on approach to the opportunities that are presented to them.
3. Improve employee retention
School leavers are likely to turn into long-term employees. At this stage in their lives, they are looking to get their foot in the door, so taking them on could improve your retention rate.
In fact, a study conducted by the Institute of Student Employers found that over 61% of apprentices stay at the same firm after 5 years. So, if one of your business goals is to reduce staff turnover, integrating school leavers into your business could help you encourage long-term employment.
4. Tackle skills shortages
Skills gaps are common in businesses of all sizes, and you can help plug them with young talent.
Once you’ve trained up an apprentice, they can then pass their knowledge on to other colleagues to help bridge any other skills shortages in your workforce. This efficient approach could help you save a considerable amount of money on staff development training.
6. Attract new perspectives
While they’re joining your team to learn new skills and grow professionally, you might also benefit from the fresh perspective of a school leaver.
It’s easy to get stuck in your ways and you might not even notice that your business could do with some new ideas. Employing young apprentices can be a great way to keep up with the times, embrace new ways of working, and gain new perspectives.
7. Keep costs down
Small businesses have low budgets, so one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to grow your talent pool is to offer entry-level roles, apprenticeships, or internships.
Government statistics show that these programmes are particularly popular among SMEs, with over 40% of them offering apprenticeships in 2021 – up from 38% in the previous year.
Let’s say you take on a full-time IT apprentice working 7 hours a day (8 hours in total, minus a 1-hour lunch), 5 days a week. At the National Minimum Wage (NMW) of £5.28, that’s £36.96 a day, £184.80 a week, £739.20 a month, and £8,870.40 a year pre-tax.
Comparing that to an IT consultant’s average annual salary of £48,000, that’s an enormous potential saving of almost £40,000 a year. Not only are you saving substantial costs by offering a paid internship, but you also have the option to train an apprentice with the exact skills needed for your business.
If you’re ready to recruit a school leaver, there are a few things to be aware of – starting with legal implications.
- Young workers aged 16-18 can work up to a maximum of 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week.
- If they work for more than 4.5 hours each day, they are entitled to a 30-minute break.
- There must be a 12-hour gap between each shift/working day.
- They must have two days off a week.
- They generally shouldn’t work overnight.
- The NMW for all 16 and 17-year-olds and apprentices is £5.28, which they are entitled to if they are carrying out any kind of work for your business.
- To legally offer an unpaid internship, the intern must only carry out shadowing of an employee. If they carry out any work for the company, they are entitled to an NMW.
- If you take on an apprentice aged 16-17 who hasn’t yet finished school, they are entitled to an NMW whilst undergoing training at your company. Their time must be split between training at your company and finishing their relevant qualifications.
- You must adhere to health and safety regulations for young workers.
The recruitment process
Remember, school leavers are completely new to the world of work, so there are a few things you could do to adjust the recruitment process and make sure that you find the most suitable candidates.
Here are some of our top tips for tailoring the recruitment process to school leavers:
1. Concise interview process
This is likely to be their very first interview, so try to keep the number of stages down (ideally no more than 2).
3. Longer onboarding
Even for an experienced employee, the first few days at a new job can be extremely overwhelming. This is intensified for school leavers, so it’s worth dedicating longer than normal to their onboarding journey.
4. Support and management
Appoint a line manager or 1-2-1 contact who can provide ample support. The new joiner will no doubt have plenty of questions and may need additional guidance as they adjust to life in your company.
Continued support should also be maintained to make sure that they remain on track throughout their training.
Apprenticeships vs. internships
These are the two main ways to integrate school leavers into your business. Internships normally last a few months and aren’t always paid, while apprenticeships tend to last at least a year and always reimburse the trainee.
The biggest difference between these two programmes is their objective. An apprentice will work with an approved apprenticeship provider to gain a professional qualification. An intern, on the other hand, gains work experience from an employer without any formal qualifications at the end.
If an apprenticeship is the right option for your business, start by outlining exactly what you’re looking for from a school leaver. Think about the skills that your business is currently missing and assess the objectives that you’d like your company to meet.
Next, consult your finance team to dedicate a suitable budget. Finally, you’ll need to apply to the apprenticeship provider and assessment register (APAR). This will make you a registered provider and enable you to receive government funding for training and undertake end-point assessments.
To find an intern, the process is similar to standard recruitment. You can try:
- Posting an ad on a job board (like Indeed or LinkedIn)
- Share the opportunity on your personal and company’s social media pages
- Ask friends or family if they have anyone suitable in mind
- Attend job fairs
- Speak to local schools and colleges
There is more guidance available on the government website. Here, you can find detailed information on employing an apprentice as well as health and safety regulations you need to adhere to when employing an intern.
Integrating school leavers into your business can be really simple and highly beneficial for both parties. New talent, long-term commitment, and low-cost recruitment are just some of the advantages that you can bring to your company by hiring a school leaver.
1st Formations is a top-rated company formation agent, offering quick, simple, and affordable company formation packages. Their comprehensive services include address, secretarial, and VAT registration, which have helped form over 1 million companies in the UK to date.
Lynn Martelli is an editor at Readability. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University and has worked as an editor for over 10 years. Lynn has edited a wide variety of books, including fiction, non-fiction, memoirs, and more. In her free time, Lynn enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with her family and friends.