Salford City Council make youth-friendly changes to apprentice role

Greater Manchester’s Hidden Talent is guided by a Steering Group of members who oversee the programme and its targets. One of the members of that Steering Group, Sarah Scanlan of Salford City Council, has used some of the advice in our recently published Employer Toolkit to adapt the way the council recruited for a Project Support Apprentice role in the Skills and Work Team.

The role first went through the ‘Early Talent’ pipeline, which looks to see if any of the vulnerable groups the Council work with are suitable, and then went out to general advert. Sarah informed the GM’s Hidden Talent team that usually there would be a period of shortlisting against the job description before going straight to interview.

However, Sarah noted that the Skills and Work team recognised that candidates might not be very knowledgeable about the work the council did and that the Job Description might not give the fullest information of what the job really involves. The GM’s Hidden Talent Employer Toolkit discusses that, for entry level roles, assuming prior knowledge of what a role involves can put off candidates who feel they require experience in a similar setting. To ensure that didn’t happen, the team put on an ‘Open Afternoon’ for candidates to hear more about the role, what working for the council is like, and give candidates a chance to meet would be colleagues.

This had the additional bonus of familiarising the candidates with the environment whilst not being formally assessed. Candidates who lack interview experience can find the process daunting and not perform well because of this: as Sarah noted, by holding this open day it took pressure away from the interview itself, which would now take place in a familiar location, with familiar faces.

The team asked for feedback and candidates responded universally: the session had given them a much clearer idea of the job role, and it was a good opportunity to meet the team beforehand.

For the interview itself, the Skills and Work Team also responded to several suggestions found in the Employer’s Toolkit to change the manner in which they interviewed. This included varying the question style (asking candidates where they had experienced good customer service as opposed to delivering it themselves) and introducing a practical task: reviewing the web pages of the team website. They asked the candidates to present back their thoughts and feelings on the webpages, and allowed candidates to do so in whichever way they chose – demonstrating their strengths and communication styles.

"small changes can make a huge difference"

Those that were unsuccessful on the day were given feedback on their answers, and offered other support to look at some of the other opportunities the Council offered – which led to further interviews with some candidates.   Currently two of the unsuccessful candidates have been offered work trials with other partner organisations.

Sarah said: “We will definitely be encouraging other teams in the Local Authority to take a similar approach to recruiting, and will be asking our new apprentice to work closely with HR to get a young person’s insight into the changes we can make to all our entry level roles.” She also noted that the team learned that “small changes can make a huge difference” in recruitment practice.

The GM’s Hidden Talent team are pleased to see how our Toolkit has enabled an employer to get the best out of their potential candidates and make confident choices about the best person for the role. – Furthermore it was fantastic to see Salford Council going a step further; linking unsuccessful candidates (who demonstrated other skills) to new roles.

We would like to wish the successful candidate good luck in their new role.


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