Undertaking job interviews is a nerve-wracking experience for most people and the situation is barely made any better by the current imperative to carry it out on Zoom or Skype.
However, for a great many firms it is not the aptitude with words in the midst of a contrived pressure situation that demonstrates the capacity of a candidate to do a job. Rather, it is the demonstration through hands-on experience of their ability to learn and deal with the everyday requirements of the task that provide the real proof needed.
This is certainly the view of Kevin Newell, who works for Walsall-based training firm PTP. Mr Newell, who sets up apprenticeships with the engineering and construction sector, told the local Express and Star newspaper that employers could find apprenticeships an ideal way of testing and selecting the best candidates, based on real-world information that makes them “better than just interviews”.
He added: “A few weeks of work experience tells an employer a lot about the communication skills and how well the potential apprentices get on with other people.”
These soft skills, as well as the sheer ability to do the job, may set one candidate apart from others, yet not be something recorded on a CV.
Mr Newell’s work has included recruiting and training apprentices for Walsall-based Sandland Packaging. The firm, which has been enjoying a solid period of growth, has been investing in high-tech finishing equipment for its cardboard boxes. It has taken on 16-year-old Kai Harper on a Lean Manufacturing Operative L2 Apprenticeship to learn how to operate the new device.
Sandland managing director Martin Hickman said: “Kai is a picking things up quickly and in training on our existing machines and will work on the new one when it is installed.”
The firm is also giving two trainees the opportunity to prove their skills and become apprentices.
It may come as no surprise to see that apprenticeships are popular in the industrial West Midlands, but there is more to the Birmingham and Black Country area than just factories, and more opportunities to learn a wide range of skills, ranging from beauty therapy to accountancy.
Indeed, just up the road from Walsall we have a beauty centre in Wolverhampton. Our advanced learner loan courses offer students from the Black Country an opportunity to learn the skills they need to give their careers a great kick start.
Most of those accessing these courses are unemployed and with joblessness having risen over the course of the pandemic, these may be particularly attractive to those who have lost their jobs, especially in sectors where post-pandemic recovery may be a matter of doubt, such as hospitality.
The West Midlands has been hit hard in this regard, with Birmingham suffering particularly badly as its unemployment rate has shot up to 15 per cent.
Ian MacLeod, the acting director of inclusive growth with Birmingham City Council, told the Independent a key reason for high unemployment is “issues with health and access to education and skills that prevent people getting into long-term sustainable jobs”, which the pandemic has exacerbated.
These issues will affect the whole West Midlands metropolitan area. But by taking up the training opportunities available, people from budding beauty therapists in Wolverhampton to packaging workers in Walsall can ensure they are well placed to get the jobs that are going and benefit when the recovery comes.