Yesterday, all eyes were on the college students who received their A Level results in the morning. Whether celebrating or commiserating, for many the big question will have been, ‘What next?

Despite expectations of a record number of university places taken up this Autumn, some students are instead planning to opt for an apprenticeship or to seek full-time employment. As an employer therefore, one key question springs to mind:
Is it wise to invest in a college leaver? And what benefit can they really bring to your business?

College leavers are… Confident, self-assured and knowledgeable

Milkround recently released an early years survey, and the results were encouraging. With 37% of students starting to consider their career options at just 14, many young people have the initiative to begin equipping themselves with the knowledge and skills they need to pursue a career path. 43% of those questioned were confident that they had the skills needed to start at full-time job immediately, whilst their biggest concern about the job hunt was not their own lack of experience, but competition for roles (64%).

A way to encourage new talent into your organisation

Another positive is the chance to really nurture home-grown talent – an element that can be hugely beneficial in certain industries. We spoke to our customer BRE, who has recently just been awarded ‘Employer of the Year’ for its Apprenticeship Scheme. The Graduate Marketing Report listed the industrial and engineering sector as having one of the biggest increases in graduate vacancies in 2014, and as such it has been difficult to recruit suitable candidates. Introducing an Apprenticeship Scheme created solely for school leavers has enabled BRE to attract and nurture young talent – ultimately allowing the organisation to grow its ‘own stars of the future’.

Ready to learn and soak up your company culture

Tara Bishop, who launched BRE’s scheme, described school and college leavers as a ‘blank canvas’. With no preconceived ideas (or bad habits!), these new employees offer you the opportunity to really develop team members who will be loyal, motivated and understand the business inside and out.

A sound investment

Fresh to the work of world, and perhaps without the experience, knowledge and qualifications of their graduate counterparts, college leavers may command a lower salary when you first take them on. This allows you to bring in and develop a hugely valuable skillset, without the initial high salary – which, particularly for SMEs, can be an important consideration.

And how do you make it work for both of you?

College leavers will need – and expect – sound career development advice and training. Structure will be important, as will a clearly assigned mentor or line manager who will be able to guide them through the ups and downs of starting full-time employment. Spend some time at the beginning of their appointment outlining the different areas of the business, and allow them the opportunity to experience various roles – so as to garner a well-rounded understanding of your operating structure. Regular appraisals, setting of objectives and opportunities to attend training or work towards professional qualifications will also be essential. These will not only help your new starter to settle in and experience rewarding levels of engagement, but will also ensure your business benefits from as much skill and knowledge as possible.

Interested in finding out more?

Many college leavers will be looking for exciting and fast-paced companies that can offer them great opportunity for progression. Employer branding and your recruitment process will play a huge part in this – so talk to us to find out how we might be able to help.

And for more info on investing in young talent, take a look at our blog from earlier this year, when we wrote about the reasons why SMES should consider employing graduates.

Where to next?

Find out how we’re working to improve employability

Discover why businesses need to be promoting apprenticeships

Read our case study in the NCUB State of the Relationship report


About the author

Tristan Potter

Tristan has a decade's worth of experience writing content and copy for organisations across Bristol and the Southwest of England. He has written on a diverse range of topics, including technology, philosophy, politics, and recruitment. His writing has appeared in The Drum, HR Grapevine, and The Guardian, among other publications. He joined Hireserve in March 2022.