Personnel Today Awards 2015 winners: Nottingham City Council delivers best Youth Employment Initiative

Nottingham City Council collect their award for  best Youth Employment Initiative
Nottingham City Council collect their award for best Youth Employment Initiative

Nottingham City Council won the Youth Employment Initiative Award at the 2015 Personnel Today Awards. Here we profile its winning entry, and those of our runners-up.

WINNER

Nottingham City Council

About the organisation

Nottingham City Council is the non-metropolitan district council for the unitary authority of Nottingham in Nottinghamshire. It consists of 55 councillors, representing a total of 20 wards, who are elected every four years.

The challenge

The Council was seeing high levels of unemployment among 16-to 24-year-olds, while employers were complaining that young people they did hire were not “work ready”. It was also facing workforce planning issues and wanted to ensure its workforce was as representative of the city as possible.

What the organisation did

  • Decided to expand its existing apprenticeship offering to target young city residents considered furthest from the job market, as well as groups currently under-represented in the workforce.
  • Ran selection days for pre-employment courses, with a guaranteed interview for an apprenticeship at the end.
  • Extended apprenticeships into areas such as cleaning, catering, horticulture, trading standards and commercial services.
  • Engaged with services to ensure provision of apprenticeships met their workforce planning needs.
  • Offered mentoring, coaching and buddy schemes to provide apprentices with the best support.
  • Introduced Apprentice of the Year category to council awards.
  • Organised networking sessions so that apprentices past and present can share experiences.

Benefits and achievements

  • Ninety-two percent of apprentices say their confidence has grown since starting the scheme, while 96% would recommend it to others.
  • Key areas of under-representation have been addressed: 41% of 2014/15 apprentices came from BME backgrounds, versus 19% of the overall workforce.
  • Recruitment costs savings have been generated of around £237,000; and 70% of apprentices are retained saving further on hiring.
  • Council’s apprenticeship scheme has become a model of best practice for Skills Funding Agency.
  • Drop-out rate has declined from 17% in 2013/14 to 13% in 2014/15.

Judges’ comments

“A clear challenge, leading to a range of solutions targeted at where support is needed most.”


RUNNERS-UP

Chelmsford City Council

About the organisation

Chelmsford City Council represents the Essex county town of Chelmsford. The city has a population of more than 170,000 – the borough has one town council and 25 parish councils.

The challenge

The Council had identified an ageing workforce. More than one-third of staff were over 50 years’ old and only 14% were in the 16-to-24 age range. It wanted to develop a scheme to attract highly motivated and skilled applicants from this age group for future long-term employment.

Youth employment – the judges

Dr Emma Parry, Cranfield School of Management

Laura-Jane Rawlings, Youth Employment UK

What the organisation did

  • Consulted with union partners and staff forum reps about the suitability of and need for a youth initiative.
  • Offered one-year internship scheme as a taster to A-level students and graduates with interest in public sector.
  • Focused apprenticeships on areas where skills were needed, liaising closely with National Apprenticeship Service.
  • Extended the range of apprenticeship frameworks to include accounting, customer service, exercise instruction and heavy motor vehicles.

Benefits and achievements

  • The Council has recruited 25 interns and 27 apprentices over the last five years.
  • Achieved a retention rate of 62% following the completion of these schemes, with trainees now working across different departments in the Council.
  • ICT apprenticeship has won approval from the Institute of Engineering and Technology.
  • The crematorium-based apprentice has won “Apprentice of the Year” award and has been recognised for her support of bereaved families.
  • Achieved recruitment savings of at least £50,000 compared to previous graduate recruitment scheme.
  • Youth engagement has been strengthened.

Judges’ comments

“A standard apprenticeship scheme with a clear focus in order to address a business need. Clear benefits to the organisation and to society.”


Coventry City Council

About the organisation

Coventry City Council is the local government body responsible for governing Coventry – a metropolitan district since 1974. In 2010, four in 10 of the council’s employees were aged 45 or older.

The challenge

Between July 2010 and July 2011, youth unemployment across Coventry had risen from 6.6% to 7.2%, and almost 900 16- to 19-year-olds were classified as not in employment, education or training (NEET). The Council wanted to raise employment and attainment among the city’s young people, as well as change its own age profile as an employer.

What the organisation did

  • Created its Apprenticeship Strategy for 2011-2014 to recruit apprentices both within the council and externally.
  • Set goal of having an average of 120 apprentices at any given time within the council.
  • Offered advice and support to employers in developing apprenticeships, and worked with education providers to promote them.
  • Organised a range of events for those over the age of 16 with local employers to promote local training opportunities for them.
  • Developed an “Access to Apprenticeship” programme for 16- to 24-year-olds who needed more support, such as those leaving care or with disabilities.
  • Engaged with disadvantaged young people to help prepare them for interviews and create a level playing field.
  • Worked with schools to create work experience opportunities.

Benefits and achievements

  • Achieved target of employing an average of 120 apprenticeships at any time, compared to other councils that have around 15 to 20.
  • Of 188 apprentices starting at the council (2012-14), 128 have completed their apprenticeship and 88% of them went into employment or university.
  • Three-quarters of those who got jobs did so with the council.
  • Vacancies are now increasingly re-purposed as apprenticeships, creating further opportunities for young people.
  • “We are thrilled by the difference our apprenticeship initiatives have made in Coventry.” – Shokat Lal, assistant director of HR and workforce services.

Judges’ comments

“I like the focus on hard to reach groups in order to make a difference and the use of partnerships to access the groups.”


Great Western Railway

About the organisation

Train operator Great Western Railway (GWR, formerly First Great Western) employs more 5,000 people across its network, its trains call at 276 stations across the south of England and it carries 97 million passengers a year.

The challenge

The company knew that it would face challenges in its talent pipeline over the next five years, thanks to the demands posed by upcoming changes such as electrification, the Intercity Express programme, Crossrail, and other improvement works. GWR wanted to open up long, fulfilling careers to young people as a way of addressing this issue.

What the organisation did

  • Created an apprenticeship programme for 1-6 to 18-year-olds.
  • Was the first rail operator to launch an 18-month, Level 2 Rail Operations Apprenticeship (ROA).
  • ROA apprentices gain experience in stations, the ticket office, on board services and in revenue teams, as well as developing essential life skills.
  • Took the decision to welcome young people who may have been turned away from other schemes through partnership with social inclusion charity School of Hard Knocks.
  • Volunteer mentors chaperone apprentices during first four weeks, and are available to individual apprentices throughout the scheme.
  • Offered opportunities to gain qualifications and mentoring experience open to all colleagues.
  • Ran apprentice swap as part of Apprenticeship Week in 2014.

Benefits and achievements

  • Intake across all schemes increased by 200%, from 6 to 22, from ROA’s first year.
  • Two other train operating companies have set up their own schemes following the success of ROA.
  • Apprentices eligible for employment at the end of the scheme is equivalent to 96%; 41 apprentices are still working for GWR.
  • Apprentices have helped the company to reach more young people through social media.
  • Buddy and mentoring systems have helped to create a culture of learning in the organisation.
  • Having seen many aspects of the business, apprentices are more likely to consider a career with GWR, creating an invaluable pool of talent.

Judges’ comments

“The solution and benefits showed a high success rate and a positive impact on communities”.


Jaguar Land Rover

About the organisation

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is the UK’s largest automotive manufacturing business, built around Land Rover, a leading manufacturer of premium all-wheel drive vehicles and Jaguar, one of the world’s premier luxury sports saloon and sports car marques. It is owned by Tata Motors Ltd.

The challenge

JLR runs successful apprenticeship programmes for school leavers at GCSE and A-level, but needed to find an application process that would address the challenges of recruiting Generation Y candidates and cope with high volumes of applications. For many, this would be their first selection process, so JLR wanted to create an experience centred around employability.

What the organisation did

  • Developed a tailored, multimedia assessment experience in conjunction with Saville Consulting.
  • Mapped the assessment to JLR’s competency framework and reinforced the JLR brand.
  • Invited candidates to take a series of multimedia situational judgement tests, comprising bespoke scenarios so they could see what it would be like to work in particular roles.
  • Supplied candidates (whether successful or not) with feedback reports so they could understand their behaviour style within a workplace setting.
  • Ensured that reports detail priority areas that candidates can work on or lesser priority areas, highlighting strengths and weaknesses for future career opportunities.

Benefits and achievements

  • Recorded overall engagement rates of 87% for 2014/15 and 92% for apprentice aptitude tests.
  • Applicants are more engaged with the JLR process than other apprentice programmes that use more traditional methods (78% FMCG, 77% financial services, 65% telecommunications).
  • Cost “per screen” down from approximately £10 to £3.30.
  • The tests were able to successfully deal with the increase of candidate numbers from 5,000 to 6,000.
  • Reduction in time spent giving candidates feedback thanks to the reports being offered, freeing up time for HR.
  • Positive feedback from candidates, such as: “I found the report very useful to show me what areas I need to work on and also what I did well.”

Judges’ comments

“Interesting use of a selection tool to select apprentices. Clear solution to a problem but more about selection than youth employment.”


Land Registry

About the organisation

Land Registry was created in 1862 and its principal function is to keep a register of title to land and charges. It provides a state-guaranteed title to registered estates and interests in land and has 28,000 customers. There are 4,400 staff based at 14 offices across England and Wales.

The challenge

Following the property crash of 2007, Land Registry had cut back its workforce by 50%. As the economy improved and work volumes began to rise, the organisation needed to hire. It also noted that only 1% of its workforce was under 30, and one-third were close to retirement age. It needed to address recruitment and introduce a “digital generation” to the workplace.

What the organisation did

  • Designed a two-year advanced apprenticeship programme in business administration for 16- to 24-year-olds.
  • Partnered with an external recruitment company to create a digital recruitment campaign, using social media, a microsite and an online assessment.
  • Sixty apprentices were initially offered roles, but this was extended to 80 thanks to the positive impact on the business.
  • Introduced new training and induction tools after a review revealed many existing products were outdated.
  • Apprentices attend regular development days so they can network with each other and share best practice.

Benefits and achievements

  • Campaign attracted more than 1000 candidates and 175 were shortlisted.
  • Age profile and diversity of the workforce at Land Registry has improved.
  • Introducing apprenticeships has meant new supervisory roles can be created for existing staff, providing valuable development opportunities and career progression.
  • Several of the apprentices’ ideas have been implemented to enhance processes and IT systems.

Judges’ comments

“An interesting challenge addressed with an advanced apprenticeship scheme. The benefits are evidenced against the business strategy.”


Mouchel Consulting

About the organisation

Formerly Mouchel Infrastructure Services, Mouchel is an international infrastructure and business services group. It plans, designs, delivers, operates and maintains large-scale infrastructure projects across the world. It has 2,500 employees across offices in the UK, Republic of Ireland, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates and Australia.

The challenge

During the recession, Mouchel’s business was focused on ensuring its workforce was at the right levels to meet the flow of work. However, as the economy has recovered this has highlighted a lack of entry-level talent, meaning fewer opportunities for people to progress with not enough people to backfill their roles.

What the organisation did

  • Developed a Technician, Apprenticeship and Graduate (TAG) strategy to provide direction and consistency to recruitment challenges.
  • Accelerated apprenticeship recruitment campaign to tap into new pool of talent.
  • Offered summer internships and industrial placements, as well as accredited graduate programmes through bodies such as Institute of Civil Engineers.
  • Introduced “Career Path” framework, which applies to all employees and shows transparent routes to progression.
  • Participated in the Technician Apprenticeship Consortium to help set the agenda on apprenticeship reform.
  • Offered salary more than double the apprenticeship national minimum wage.
  • Mouchel has become member of “The 5% Club”, a commitment to ensure 5% of UK workforce are apprentices, graduates, or sponsored students over the next five years.

Benefits and achievements

  • Apprentices have bought fresh thinking to the organisation and the talent pool has diversified.
  • Pipeline for succession has been strengthened at a time when there is a shortage of engineers.
  • New entry-level roles have opened up capacity for progression further up the ladder – there have been more than 400 promotions in the company since 2014.
  • Turnover among apprentice population is at 8%, compared with 15% across the company as a whole.
  • Ability to demonstrate commitment to youth employment has positively influenced the tender process.

Judges’ comments

“A well designed apprenticeship scheme with clear career paths, multi-pronged approach and a high level of support.”


Zurich Insurance

About the organisation

Zurich Insurance is a global insurer delivering products and services in more than 170 countries. Its Zurich Municipal (ZM) business offers insurance and risk management products to the public sector.

The challenge

Zurich Municipal recognised that around 500,000 people aged 16-to-24 are unemployed, 200,000 of which have not worked for a year or more. The company wanted to reach out to its local community by offering six unemployed people the chance to work at ZM.

What the organisation did

  • Launched a “Work Skills” programme, which helps young people overcome the barriers that a lack of experience can create.
  • Offered paid work experience places to help individuals acquire key skills such as CV writing, interview preparation, presentation, communication and time management.
  • Worked with local job centres to find individuals unemployed for more than 12 months, and to shortlist applicants.
  • Successful candidates were allocated a buddy and a manager to give them advice and support.

Benefits and achievements

  • Out of an initial six placements, five had contracts extended. One got a permanent role in marketing, another a permanent (external) IT role.
  • Managers gained experience in understanding a wider profile of employees.
  • Initial pilot in Farnborough was so successful that a second has been launched in Birmingham, with a view to extend across other locations in the future.
  • Introducing the scheme has improved engagement across a wide cross section of employees, who benefited from helping out the young candidates.

Judges’ comments

“I liked the focus on the important area of life skills and the altruistic motivation for doing this.”

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