When COVID hit it was damning news for the younger generation and the jobs market. A BBC article from 28th of September charted ‘Seven ways the young have been hit by COVID’ including; young people left the workplace first, online graduate job vacancies fell by 60% and apprenticeships have stalled, the article states ‘From 23 March to 30 June, apprenticeship starts halved compared with the previous year. ‘

This was not the case for Balfour Beatty’s materials testing division who work with specialist STEM apprenticeship provider Youthforce. The pandemic did not stop national infrastructure projects, like HS2, moving forward or the recruitment process so Youthforce devised an online solution that would allow Balfour to find and select the talent they needed without delay, and more importantly without any health risks.

Youthforce’s Matt Taylor, Head of Digital Transformation explains. “We had a lot of digital systems in place already before COVID hit, we were used to working remotely and meeting over zoom as we support apprentices nationwide, so the lockdown was not a huge adjustment for us. When it came to clients like Balfour Beatty who needed to continue ‘as normal’ in terms of levels of recruitment we simply moved our plans for them online.

“To ensure the best outcome for the recruitment process we had set up an assessment centre where a combined panel of Youthforce and Balfour Beatty would meet with a large number of pre-approved candidates to learn more about the each other; the opportunities with Balfour Beatty and the candidate’s suitability.

“At Youthforce we have a win-win philosophy and these assessment centres allow Balfour Beatty to find suitable apprentices as well as manage the expectations of potential candidates. Candidates who had already passed a telephone interview with us and submitted a video CV were invited to learn about the realities of the role. Candidates were then invited into break-out rooms to complete a range of tasks, allowing us to assess skills such as teamwork and communication.

“We effectively created an online analogue for candidate assessment so that it was easier for us and the client to identify who should move forward.”

Youthforce has been working with Balfour Beatty’s material testing division for many years. Charlotte Blant Youthforce’s CEO concludes “We are delighted to be able to facilitate Balfour Beatty’s commitment to apprenticeships. They are not only very publicly committed to apprenticeships through their CEO’s 5% Club, but they work closely with us to continually improve the quality of the apprenticeships and learning they offer. We were very pleased to see that not even a pandemic could hamper their ambitions.’