“The recruitment support is a clear differentiator from other universities.”
FDM helps their clients meet business objectives through the provision of a diverse, high quality pipeline of talent to work within their business.
We spoke to Kate Hawthorn, Director of Consultant Talent at FDM group to learn more about their experience recruiting students with us.
When did you launch your apprenticeship programme?
We launched the FDM Apprenticeship Programme in 2020 in the midst of the COVID pandemic. Recognising that this demographic of young people had been hit particularly hard by the crisis, we wanted to offer opportunities to those who were facing very limited employment and training opportunities and enhance our commercial offering to our existing clients. FDM has an established reputation as an employer with a clear and effective diversity agenda and we wanted to leverage the Government levy to help increase access and participation to careers in technology and higher education, regardless of background.
Could you describe the recruitment process for degree apprentices? Could you list the steps you go through?
FDM has an established reputation as an employer with a clear and effective diversity agenda and have selected university Apprenticeship Training Providers in areas where the population is likely to include a large proportion of people from under-represented groups (e.g. people of colour, low income families) and who share our values.
We are developing relationships with inner-city schools and young people who would not have the opportunity to go to university so that we can offer high quality career opportunities to these targeted communities. Our recruitment processes are built on potential rather than pre-existing knowledge and privilege, using CV-blind techniques, gamified behavioural tests and strength-based interviews. We capture recruitment data so that we can track demographics such as first in family to attend university, type of school attended, ethnic group, disability and gender.
The steps we go through for our recruitment process with Sheffield Hallam include advertising our vacancies, screening applicants through telephone interviews and CV checks, we then review suitable candidates sent through by the Employer Partnerships Manager.
How does Sheffield Hallam support you in recruiting apprentices?
We work closely with Joe Hockney, the Creative and Digital Degree Apprenticeship Employer Partnerships Manager. Joe is extremely employer focused and he takes on the first stages of recruitment for us. This includes advertising our vacancies, representing the programme at school events, collating CVs, short-listing and pre-screening candidates. As a trusted partner Joe attends the final stage assessment centre at FDM offices and is one of our interviewers.
Do you have experience recruiting apprentices without our support?
We also recruit apprentices in London with a different university who do not offer the same support we receive from Sheffield Hallam University. We have an established recruitment team so are able to do this ourselves but it is obviously more time consuming.
Did you have the resources to recruit without Sheffield Hallam? Do you believe you would have attracted the same talent without advertising with us?
Now that we are in the 3rd apprentice recruitment cycle we are establishing a brand presence in this space but certainly in the first two years of the programme we would have struggled to find the right quality and quantity of talent without the support of Sheffield Hallam University.
Have you used higher and degree apprenticeships as a way to grow your own talent or as a way to increase staff retention?
We have used degree apprenticeships to both expand and develop our workforce, with 90% of our apprentices being direct hires and the remaining 10% existing staff.
What do degree apprenticeships bring to your business?
Many apprentices choose the apprenticeship route to a degree because the cost of university is prohibitive or involves huge family sacrifice. Others prefer a more applied learning environment. Both groups provide entry level talent that is more diverse and representative of local populations and provide unique ways of looking at business problems. As tech savvy learners with a real passion for technology apprentices apply creative thinking to business projects and are not constrained in their thinking by current or past ways of working.
The FDM Apprenticeship Programme is also providing a new commercial offering to our business. Building upon a highly successful business model, which has launched the technology careers of thousands of consultants, our on-going strategy is to partner with existing clients in order to provide our apprentices with external placements. This will enable us to significantly expand the number of opportunities available and the pipeline of people able to enter a career in technology.
What success have you had with your apprentices?
Apprentices do real jobs and are integral to the successful running of operationally critical teams such as first-line support. The first four apprentices, who will be graduating in September, will be retained because they are delivering enormous value to the business and are viewed as essential members of IT staff.
We now have 35 direct hire degree apprentices working across the internal IT estate with an ambitious strategy to significantly expand the programme over the next three years.
What advantages do degree apprenticeships have over other professional development schemes and traditional recruitment paths?
Apprentices have more applied thinking and are able to relate the academic part of their experience to their day-to-day work. They learn to manage work and study at an early stage.
Apprenticeship schemes are also an excellent option for staff retention as the apprentices are committed to a programme which lasts three years.
Why did you choose Sheffield Hallam to be your degree apprenticeship partner? What differentiates us from other providers?
A combination of factors led to us choosing Sheffield Hallam, one being the location as it is an area where the population is likely to include a large proportion of people from under-represented groups. We also chose Sheffield Hallam as they share our values in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion. Teaching quality is obviously important and the opportunity to feed into curriculum design and development. The recruitment support we receive is also a clear differentiator from other universities.