The dual education system enjoys a very high standing in Germany, ranking alongside university degrees. Covering 330 recognized occupations that require formal training, it combines practical experience in the workplace with basic theory at a vocational college. This eases young people into their chosen profession while also providing companies with qualified junior staff to meet their HR requirements in the medium term – because most trainees (formerly known as apprentices) still enter into a “normal” employment relationship with the company on completing their training.
Are good applicants in short supply?
Finding the right applicants for a training position is not all that easy. Although there are some regional differences, there are usually more vacancies than candidates. Competition is fierce, with statistics suggesting that one in three training positions remained unfilled in 2018. This is partly due to demographic change. In other words, the number of young people looking for a training place is steadily falling. In addition to this, a degree is the first choice for many young people starting out on their careers. The quality of candidates also varies a great deal.
Successful marketing for training vacancies
Faced with this situation, the question for companies is how to make a success of marketing their vocational training. How can they attract high school students and spark their interest? And how do they select and then successfully recruit the most suitable young candidates?
Studying the target group closely is important. Even though there is significant variation within it, the group as a whole still differs considerably from the group of candidates applying for other jobs, as demonstrated by numerous studies on trainee recruitment in Germany such as “Azubi-Recruiting Trends 2020”.
Recruitment geared to generation Z
The young people currently applying for traineeships belong to generation Z and have different values to their predecessors. For example, their career does not necessarily come first, but they do consider a good work-life balance and opportunities for further development during and after their training to be important. Generation Z is also said to be highly adaptable but impulsive, so companies should make sure they avoid losing candidates during the application and selection process. The high school students now applying for training positions are digital natives and have grown up with smartphones, the internet and social media. Accordingly, these digital skills also need to be taken into account during the recruitment process.
Parents, too, are a key target group and should not be ignored, as they have a decisive influence over their children and the training option they decide on. Given that a lot of the young candidates are not yet adults, parents are normally required to have at least some formal involvement in the application process.
Grabbing applicants’ attention
Communicating via social media is part and parcel of marketing vocational training nowadays, as are mobile applications. Traditional recruitment channels should not be abandoned, though, because – rather surprisingly – these are the very methods young people prefer. Studies on recruitment trends have revealed that would-be trainees like to submit their application using an online form or by email. WhatsApp or videos, on the other hand, are unpopular according to “Azubi-Recruiting Trends 2018”.
When it comes to researching the training or employers, however, Instagram and YouTube are considered the two most relevant platforms, and online advertising also goes down very well with high school students. Even so, conventional channels – such as careers fairs and events, print media, the portal of the German Federal Employment Agency and even advertising on local public transportation – remain proven strategies for getting the young generation to notice your company (“Azubi-Recruiting Trends 2020” study).
Striking the right tone
The level of formality used with candidates also differs significantly from the recruitment of skilled workers. The potential trainees are young – often under 18 – so a relatively informal tone is frequently used. This must then be consistent throughout the application process – from careers page to candidate portal and correspondence. They also often require special guidance, together with a lot of information about the application procedure, what the occupation they intend to train for involves and the vocational training process itself. Having a dedicated section for trainees on the careers page with all the relevant details geared to the specific target group has proven to be highly effective.
Finding suitable candidates
The criteria companies use to select trainees are also different from those applied to other groups of applicants. The young target group has no practical experience or professional qualifications. At the initial stage of the application process, selection is therefore based on school grades, which are not normally requested on application forms for other target groups. The results of selection tests – such as psychometric, online or vocational aptitude tests – and selection days are also relevant prior to an actual interview. Video interviews are another good way of getting to know a candidate, and a less resource-intensive alternative to conventional interviews.
Having some connection with the company plays a key role, too. Applicants with a parent on the workforce, former student interns or, for example, students who visited on Girls’ Day are very often given preference.
Few firm commitments
Given that most candidates apply for several training positions at once and often receive a number of offers, obtaining firm commitments from them can prove difficult. For example, a survey by the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce revealed that a fifth of companies had concluded training contracts for positions that were ultimately not taken up. This makes it vital to ensure a positive candidate experience so as to score points with would-be trainees and establish a bond early on. However, it’s amazing how often the candidate experience is neglected in the context of training.
What’s more, the recruitment process takes months – sometimes up to a year – because in Germany all trainees start at a fixed time, normally in August or September. Good organization and a strong bond are needed to prevent applicants who applied early from backing out.
Recruiting trainees – a mass process
At many companies, the search for suitable trainees is a mass process. They often offer training in various occupations spread across a number of different sites, and it’s not uncommon for large enterprises to have several hundred vacancies. At the same time, a huge number of applications are received each year, because school leavers apply for numerous positions – quite possibly several at the same company – to ensure they are ultimately offered at least one traineeship. What’s more, the staff in charge of trainees in the various departments are normally responsible for recruiting them rather than recruitment staff in the HR department.
Automation and standardization help
To overcome all these challenges and create processes of a sufficiently high quality, most companies use special recruitment software. When selecting a tool of this kind, the focus should be on efficiency, a clear structure and intuitive operation. After all, the users are training specialists, not IT experts.
Automation and standardization can help companies significantly reduce the amount of manual work involved in the recruitment process. For example, they can use recruitment software to automatically filter out applicants who fail to meet the minimum criteria and either reject them outright or move their details to a special folder for a case-by-case decision. Artificial intelligence (AI) can also take care of the time-consuming arrangement of interviews. Unlike qualitative tasks, such as communication or drawing up a shortlist, these processes can be handled very reliably using AI and are welcomed by applicants, who see them as a modern solution.
Ideally, companies should use a system that is linked to the one utilized by the HR management team, streamlines administrative steps and simplifies qualitative processes. The SAP SuccessFactors Recruiting Suite takes all these requirements into account, offering the optimum basis for seeking out, winning over and recruiting the best young talent.