Mind the skills gap: apprenticeships and returnships

Moira Grassick - Chief Operating Officer

October 18 2022

First published: 06/1/2022
Last updated: 14/11/2022

Labour market experts predict that the post-pandemic jobseekers’ market is set to continue for another twelve to twenty-four months.

This of course means employers face another year or two of challenging recruitment and retention conditions.

Here, we take a look at two alternative approaches to filling vacancies that could help employers find candidates in places they might not have previously considered….

1.      Seek out apprentices

The apprenticeship declined in popularity as third-level education became more accessible in Ireland. There is a renewed focus on this route into the workforce however as education training boards are collaborating with employers on the development of new apprenticeship programmes. Apprenticeship programmes are now available in a wide range of areas from cybersecurity and network engineering to sales and financial services.

There are around seventy active apprenticeship programmes now in operation. And it is not just a trend in industries that have traditionally relied on apprenticeships to develop employees. Larger corporate employers are learning that apprenticeship programmes can provide them with access to a wider pool of talent.

Apprenticeships can also be a very attractive option for ambitious, young candidates. On-the-job training, the chance to earn while you learn along with support to complete any study components make apprenticeships a great way to attract younger candidates.

With the right recruitment support, you can develop a hiring process that identifies candidates who may lack academic qualifications but have relevant skills and capabilities. Once a good candidate is identified, you can help them carry out their role with the help of a relevant training programme.

2.      Make your business attractive to returners

It can be daunting for anyone who has left their career for a number of years to return to the workplace. Developing a returnship programme could help you attract a lot of candidates who are considering a return to work.

The Construction Industry Federation for example has developed a twelve-week programme targeting women who have left the workforce for a number of years. A returnship programme aims to provide anyone who has been away from the workplace with the confidence and capabilities to return to working in industry.

As with apprenticeships, businesses in a wide range of industries have all developed bespoke return to work programmes to support women and carers who are interested in returning to work.

A returnship programme usually involves a period of training followed by an on-the-job placement underpinned by flexible working options. If existing staff or job applicants express concerns about their skills being out-of-date, you could look at creating opportunities to upskill. You might also find it possible to make adjustments to your existing learning and development or professional development programmes to attract women who have left the workforce.

A dedicated returnship scheme could unlock access to a wide range of talented candidates who may have left the workforce for family or other reasons.  

Academic qualifications aren’t everything

If you think you might be limiting your talent search options, make sure to first establish whether it’s necessary for job candidates to have academic qualifications at all. Clearly, in certain circumstances, a relevant qualification will be necessary, but in many cases, educational qualifications provide no guarantee that a candidate will be successful in a job.

In many cases, candidates who have taken the road less travelled can exploit their experience and skills in a more practical way than their highly-educated counterparts.

Putting too much emphasis on an applicant’s education increases your chances of missing out on less academically qualified candidates with lots of potential, willingness to learn and transferrable skills.

Broadening your approach to recruitment by creating some alternative routes to employment is a great way to position yourself in what looks set to be a jobseekers’ market for the foreseeable future.

Talk to us about your recruitment challenges

If you want to explore apprenticeships or returnships further, why not talk to one of our HR experts.

Apprentices don’t enjoy the same employment law rights as full-time employees so it’s important to have the right employment documentation in place.

Your HR experts here at Peninsula can walk you through the whole recruitment process from advertising to onboarding to give your apprenticeship proposals the best chance to succeed.

Just get in touch by calling 1800 719 216  or leave us your details and we’ll call you back.

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