Will they be ‘hired’ or ‘fired’? – Ark Academy’s first Apprentice Day

Last Thursday all our sixth-formers abandoned their lessons as we held our inaugural ‘Apprentice Day’. It was a big commitment: over the course of the day 180 students were put through a full-scale recruitment process for an apprenticeship, completing a one-on-one interview, a group task and an online skills assessment. To make the day possible, we partnered with three top apprenticeship providers, Lloyds Banking Group, Transport for London and The Civil Service, who all generously made employees available to interview the students.

But why did we do it?

We have been watching closely as the number of Higher and Degree Apprenticeships for school leavers has been rapidly increasing in recent years and have read the Sutton Trust research about the ‘access gap’ that exists for the best programmes. We also know from speaking to our students that prejudiced views about the value of apprenticeships are widespread.

The objectives of The Apprentice Day were two-fold: to challenge any preconceptions our students and their parents may have about apprenticeships; and to give them all practical experience in the kinds of tasks and interviews they are likely to face whenever they enter the workforce.

How did it work?

The students were split into three streams, with 50-60 students competing for each of three ‘imaginary’ apprenticeships: software development at TfL, business administration at The Civil Service, and project management at Lloyds. The students were given a briefing on the role they were applying for and plenty of advice and time to prepare themselves. The guest interviewers were especially impressed with the research many of the students had done into their companies and the depth of the experiences many of them were able to draw upon when giving examples.

Shahir Yadgari from 12 Rogers said “the most inspirational thing I took from Thursday was that I now understand that I can end up in the same place whether I do a degree or an apprenticeship”, while for Medan Kwaw  “the best bit of the day was getting feedback on my interview technique”.

At the end of the day the students gathered together in the hall to hear who had been ‘hired’. The successful students were Iman Ahmadi (The Civil Service), Hammad Ahmed (Lloyds) and Varruni Somasundaram (TfL), but what stood out most was the tight competition.

Isabell Palmer, the Head of Non Domestic Policy and Engagement at The Civil Service’s Department for Business, Skills and Industrial Strategy said “We were very impressed by the sixth formers we met, who all seemed to be of a consistently high standard.  They are a credit to the school.  The Apprentice Day was a great opportunity for students to find out more about the opportunities on offer in the world of work.  They got a very realistic insight into how companies recruit, which should give them more confidence for the future.”