Chris Bogh |

The provision of adequate numbers of apprenticeship schemes has been a hot political topic over recent years. David Cameron has emphasised the need for private sector job creation to get the economy back on track and as part of this drive has been courting the likes of Microsoft, Tesco and other leading employers to pledge jobs, many of which will be developed through apprenticeship opportunities in conjunction with the National Apprenticeship Service. This is great news for many unemployed youngsters looking to get their careers started. For those running the schemes it poses the challenge of how to set up, manage and communicate with a large number of applicants over a set, often short period of time, to select the best candidates. Towards the end of last year, eploy helped two major organisations, Network Rail (in conjunction with Work Resourcing) and GEN II, to prepare for their apprentice recruitment drives that started in January 2011.

Unlike more traditional recruitment practices, the selection of individuals for apprenticeships is a little different and no less challenging. Firstly, for the number of opportunities on offer, there is likely to be a deluge of applicants which need to be dealt with efficiently and fairly within a short time - often within defined dates - so setup time and effective execution is paramount.

Managing online with offline activities

Secondly, there is often the need to coordinate online with offline activities when arranging appointments or coordinating assessment centre openings so flexibility is very important in the software you are using. For example, our work with Cumbria based GenII, the largest training provider to the nuclear industry, included a location finder to offer access to available schemes. The company used Eploy's web-based system to set up appointment slots at local assessment centres and to arrange interviews which the candidate could confirm online.

Network Rail also used a similar feature to incorporate a postcode radius search to allow people to select schemes in their locality. For assessments to be made as simple as possible, all external information is stored in eploy alongside the candidate's personal data to build a holistic view. It is also possible to integrate information obtained from outsourced companies such as screening organisations that undertake telephone interviews and online tests.

Data capture

From a data capture perspective, candidates are unlikely, for example, to have a CV so will generally need to fill out specific forms to provide the necessary information. This is used to eliminate those applications that do not meet pre-requisite criteria for any available funding, which is often based on age, basic academic qualifications or whether they have received funding in the past. Eploy's flexibility allows for registration forms and processes to be completely customised ensuring the best possible candidate experience.

Online testing

It is also possible to build in additional layers of online assessment to power the application process. We have integrated many apprenticeship portals with third party psychometric test providers such as SHL, with the results instantly fed back into the Eploy system.

'Network Rail integrated psychometric tests and seamlessly fed the results direct back into eploy's system'

In these scenarios, the candidate is invited to undertake a test; Eploy is notified and communicates with SHL via web services to send a link to an online form which is forwarded to the candidate. Once completed the resulting data is stored and the candidate is moved to the 'Test Complete' stage ready for evaluation. The procedure is both seamless and fast and, for non-score based tests, assessment papers can be stored as pdf's and attached to the candidate's profile. As this is a dynamic, two-way process, some candidates may also need to update their own information whilst others may simply want to express an early interest in applying at a future date so they may be contacted. Essential data, such as successful applicants, may also need to be exported into the company's HR system for future use. These features reduce the chance of candidates falling through the net and missing an opportunity, and facilitate transparent interworking between systems.

Managing the selection process

The management of candidate information and administration of forms can also be a challenge in high volume environments. These will vary according to the needs of the customer but generally the ability to collate and print specific data, lists and summaries in easy to read formats is a must have. A simple example is having a comprehensive print out of all candidate information prior to assessment centre visits. eploy developed custom screens for Network Rail using prompts with the results then being able to be converted into a professional pdf format summary for printing or emailing. These time-saving features and enhanced system capabilities allow the management of the selection process to be carried out efficiently in a collaborative, transparent environment.
When tackling high volume recruitment schemes make sure your online solution is robust and able to deliver.

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