Apprenticeships toolkit

For employers



Make your process accessible and inclusive of all applicants.

Recruitment is complex and involves many moving parts. Unless intentionally designed in an inclusive way, many traditional recruitment practices make it much more difficult for people from lower socio-economic backgrounds to demonstrate their capabilities and prevent recruiters from recognising their skills and potential.

  • What level of apprenticeship are you offering for this role?
    Consider offering more Level 2 apprenticeships as they don’t require any pre-existing achievements in English and maths, which can be a barrier for many.
  • Where is the apprenticeship located?
    Consider offering the apprenticeship in a social mobility ‘coldspot’, particularly if your business is expanding. Beyond that, ask yourself if being on site essential to the role and how much remote working can be enabled? Flexibility around working from home can be a great enabler for people who are parents, carers, disabled, have additional needs or aren’t able to relocate.

“We learnt that we made various assumptions about our apprentices, often based on their age. We assumed that they would be okay with contacting us virtually, but the virtual methods and means didn’t match with those that they were using. Therefore it was all a learning curve about how could we best reach people and reassure them.”
– Ruth Frost, Recruitment Team Leader, Companies House

  • How is the apprenticeship structured?
    What are the hours you are expecting your apprentices to work? How flexible can you make them? Consider the needs of parents, carers and disabled apprentices and proactively find a schedule that accommodates their needs.
  • What wage are you paying apprentices?
    We call on all employers to pay apprentices the voluntary living wage wherever possible. Not offering it will exclude anyone who doesn’t have a financial cushion to tie them over.

“Apprenticeship wage poverty is a real and growing concern. The apprenticeship minimum wage is unviable for most adults and off-putting for parents of potential young apprentices who are on income support as this affects their household income. It is so important that employers make a commitment to paying apprentices at all levels and ages decent wages so as not to damage the apprenticeship brand and to encourage further take up from our young people and adults.”
– Alex Miles, Managing Director, West & North Yorkshire Learning Providers

  • What are the progression opportunities after the apprenticeship?
    This might be a decisive factor for candidates who are weighing up whether to apply. Provide examples of routes former apprentices have taken after their training (e.g. securing a permanent job), so applicants have a concrete understanding of what progression could look like for them.
  • Ensure all apprenticeship roles you offer are publicly advertised and posted in multiple places (e.g. online job boards, Job Centres, via career hubs).
  • In your advert, clearly list:
    – salary
    – location (and any flexibility you can offer)
    – working hours (including part-time and flexible arrangements)
    – employee benefits (such as pension, holidays, sick leave etc)
    – adjustments and support offer (such as purchasing equipment or software as well as mentors, peer networks, counselling etc)
    – your Disability Confident employer badge (if you have achieved one)
    – length of the programme
  • Talk explicitly about the benefits of apprenticeships – don’t assume everyone is familiar with what apprenticeships are, how they work and what they offer in terms of career, qualifications and training opportunities. This can also help parents, carers and teachers to better support applicants.
  • Be clear about what the application process involves, what is assessed at each stage and what support is available to candidates (such as help from a careers coach, childcare costs etc).

    Use language that is inclusive of all identities, abilities and backgrounds (e.g. by using gender-neutral pronouns and plain English).
  • Make sure your materials are accessible (e.g. in sufficiently large font and size and compatible with a screen reader) and provide details for how to request them in alternative formats.
  • Involve role models from a variety of backgrounds in your marketing materials that candidates can identify with. Consider how class intersects with other characteristics such as disability, ethnicity, faith, gender or sexual orientation and how you can represent different experiences that speak to a wide range of people.
  • What is your timeframe for recruitment?
    Ensure there is time to give due consideration to diversity and inclusion. Start early and put in place a minimum timeframe for recruitment. Avoid preferential treatment for those who apply early – take all applications through the same process with consistency.
  • What are your requirements of candidates?
    Qualification requirements can be a huge barrier for people who would otherwise have the skills to do the job. Ask yourself if any qualifications are absolutely necessary for the role?

“We purposefully didn’t create any barriers to entry in terms of academic qualification. We did look for core competencies in terms of maths and writing skills, but if someone came along and demonstrated the right attitudes and behaviours then let’s not get too hung up on their email response because that can be taught.”
– Bradley Burgoyne, Head of Talent, Jardine Motors Group

  • How are you testing and assessing applicants’ skills?
    Knowing how to demonstrate a skill is a skill in itself that not everyone learns at school. Use contextualised recruitment to understand a candidate’s skills and potential within the context of their environment.

“My employer emailed everyone the details of the assessment activities in advance, so we knew exactly what was going to happen. That really helped.”
– Apprentice workshop participant

  • Offer to pay for any costs associated with the application process (e.g. travel, childcare, clothing, access to equipment, high-speed internet, an appropriate space for a virtual interview etc) and enable this to be requested anonymously in advance (rather than receiving it as a reimbursement).
  • Provide adjustments and support for disabled candidates and people with learning disabilities and train your assessors in how to make these adjustments. Offer guaranteed interviews for disabled candidates that meet the minimum criteria (as part of the Disability Confident employers scheme).
  • Engage a provider to offer support to candidates with writing their application and preparing for an interview. You may also provide candidates with other resources that might be specific to your industry or organisation.
  • Check in with your candidates.
    Can you provide applicants with a name and phone number they can call if they have any questions or would like to have a chat in advance? A little extra support can go a long way. Find local community organisations who can provide this support if you are not in a position to do so yourself.

“Apprentices do need a bit more support and guidance. It doesn’t have to be labour intensive, but you might need to think outside the box a bit. We engaged with them early so that by the time they joined they’d met their team, their buddy, and had had calls with their line managers. This meant that when they joined, we were better prepared, and they were better prepared too.”
– Ruth Frost, Recruitment Team Leader, Companies House


The government’s Access to Work scheme offers practical and financial support for disabled people who are 16 or over and in or entering work. This could include purchasing or adapting equipment, travel costs or hiring an interpreter. This can make a real difference to a disabled person applying to your programme.