When devising recruitment initiatives for school leavers, it’s crucial to understand who they look to for guidance: influencers. Here, we explain what an influencer is, why they are important and how you can engage with them

What is an influencer?

When you recruit a school leaver, the viewpoint of that young person isn’t the only one to consider. A huge eight out of 10 school leavers will factor their parents’ opinions into their career decisions—so they have a clear influence over whether or not a school leaver decides to apply for your opportunities. 

Influencers are primarily parents, but can also include teachers and careers advisers, as well as siblings, friends and other family members. While support networks differ from one young person to the next, our research shows that, year on year, parents are by far the most common influencers in the career decisions of school leavers. 

It’s important to bear in mind that parents are already looking for information: almost half (47.5%) of them are already seeking information about post-school/college options for their child. A further 36.7% are planning on doing so. Sooner or later, most parents will consider the options available to their children—which is why it’s so important to engage with them, as a recruiter, from the outset. 

The importance of engaging

You may ask the question: “Why engage with influencers if it’s the school leaver I want to recruit?” It’s important not to underestimate the importance of influencers in the lives of your candidates. One in two graduates ask their parents about career decisions. School leavers—probably still living at home with their parents—need even more support, as they are earlier in the process and are likely still weighing up the pros and cons of apprenticeships, university and other options. 

This is the key reason to engage with influencers: parents, teachers and careers advisers need the full picture when it comes to school leaver options. As an employer with an offering of school leaver programmes or apprenticeships, you fit into that picture. 

There was probably a set point when your organisation realised the value that apprentices can add to a company, as well as the unique benefits of apprenticeships and school leaver programmes for those who complete them. The reality is, a lot of parents don’t yet know this. 

They might not know, for example, that in the case of 44% of employers, school-leaver recruitment has outgrown graduate recruitment. The majority are unaware of all the different levels of apprenticeship, and less than 10% know that degree apprenticeships exist. That means that 90% of parents don’t know there’s an option that allows their child to get a degree-level qualification, earning all the while, building a relationship with an employer and incurring no student debt. 

In fact, just one in seven parents think that apprenticeships are a good option for their child, according to ABM. If you’re recruiting apprentices—and want to attract the top talent—it’s crucial for you to change the mind of the majority.  

Ultimately, when employers engage with influencers, it creates a chain reaction. Those influencers become informed and excited by the options you have—and will in turn pass on their knowledge and enthusiasm about your programmes to their children. Reaching influencers will attract high-quality, well-informed candidates—saving you time and money in your recruitment efforts. 

Engagement: it all begins online

Every young person has a unique relationship with their parent or carer—each family comes with its own list of questions and concerns about future options. As a result, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to engaging with all of them. From our tried-and-tested successes, we've devised a number of ways to get parents, teachers, careers advisers and school leavers on the same page. 

The first step is to figure out what they want, and where your organisation fits into that. Research shows that, above all, parents want their child to have future progression opportunities in their role, as well as enjoy it. Training opportunities closely followed as an important factor, with company reputation and work/life balance coming third. Parents are more interested in these factors than location, benefits and salary, which they ranked as least important. 

As well as keeping parents informed and in the loop about school-leaver options, we help companies to become household names as school-leaver employers—in our experience, this all starts online.

By generating an online hub, you’ll be able to collate all of the information about your opportunities in one handy place. Parents are keen to get the full picture: alongside live vacancies and role descriptions, first-person accounts from apprentices and video interviews add another dimension to the engagement process. You can be part of a group of employers who are already keeping influencers informed—and getting applications through as a result. 

A great way to increase engagement with your hub is to use social media to engage with influencers—as you might well be doing with school leavers already. Influencers, too, can be reached online—in fact, the majority of the users on AllAboutSchoolLeavers’ Facebook page are parents seeking information about opportunities for their children.  

When engaging influencers via social media, it’s important to be savvy. What’s the reach you can achieve with your current social platforms and mailing lists? What are the average open rates for emails? We have a strong database of parents that we can send tailor-made emails to on a regular basis. 

Events: the ultimate engagement

Once you know your influencers, it’s important to engage with them at bespoke, correctly-pitched events. An event is a perfect way to start conversations about your opportunities, involving both school leavers and their parents.

When it comes to engagement, it’s important to fill in the gaps in the knowledge of influencers. For example, our event “Girls: Count Us In”, held with the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFOA), was specifically designed to provide clarity on the actuarial profession to an audience of school-aged females. It was the perfect chance for these young people and their parents to learn about the actuarial profession, as well as STEM as a whole. 

“The people that came along to the event were very engaged and enthusiastic about finding out about the profession and about what their future career could be,” says Dharmini Mistry, the marketing manager at IFOA. “All came prepared with a range of questions and weren’t shy to network with professionals in the industry.”

We have also seen an overwhelming success from our Parents’ Days—events specifically designed to keep parents in the loop about the options at various firms. Employers from a diverse range of sectors give presentations and exhibit their opportunities at our Parents’ Days. “I found the day to be extremely useful,” says Jamie Bainbridge, a recruitment analyst at Accenture. “Because of the educational side, both parents and young people were engaged, informed and asked relevant questions.”

At the very least, students and parents leave Parents’ Days on the same page, with a greater sense of what options are out there. “I definitely know more, much more than when I walked through the door,” says Olawunmi Brigue, a parent who attended our Parents’ Day in London. At the most, students leave galvanised to apply for opportunities at the firms with which they interacted—with the full support of their parents, who accompanied them. “We had a number of candidates apply off the back of the event, which really proved its worth,” says Jamie. 

When it comes to engagement, it’s key to keep the channels of communication open between young people and their influencers. By equipping event attendees with print resources such as our School Leaver Guides, we ensure that families have the resources to explore their options. Our guides contain extensive profiles of the firms we work with—already, employers included in our guides are becoming ubiquitous with school leavers looking to make their first career step, with the full support of their parents. 

Looking to devise an influencer strategy?

We can assist with everything from creating an online hub to running a bespoke event for your company. Leave your details below and we'll be in touch! 

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