Why we launched a clearing hotline for apprentices

Clearing doesn't just have to be about university - it can promote apprenticeships, too, says William Macpherson

On A-level results day this year the training organisation QA launched a clearing hotline for apprenticeships

Last Thursday, thousands of young people experienced the nerve-wracking moment of opening their A-level results. For us at QA, results day is always a busy time. Our modern apprenticeships offered in cyber security and software development build world-class skills with employers ranging from start-ups to household names like Vodafone, BT and Santander, paying on average £300 per week. 

In previous years we have seen call numbers rise on the day as we discuss with hundreds of young people what’s next. This happens quite naturally – we guide traffic towards our experts, particularly in apprenticeships, but until now this was a largely informal process.


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When we were planning for this year’s results day, we decided to change that. We saw an opportunity to really help the people who matter most to us – our learners. It was clear that potential apprentices need the support and guidance that is freely offered to those looking at other routes to higher education. We formalised this in the shape of the UK’s first apprenticeships clearing line, which we opened on A-level results day in England.

A team of apprenticeship experts manned the lines at one of our centres in the South. Alongside our team were businesses, entrepreneurs and former apprentices all eager to help young people decide what’s next. We wanted to have a broad mix of people so that potential apprentices had the opportunity to speak with those from different backgrounds, all with different stories to share.

Apprenticeships hotline

It was highly successful – the phone lines became busy from when we opened at 8.30am until late in the evening.  Call numbers increased by 300 per cent, with our teams talking to over 1,500 potential candidates – making sure that they are the right person for the right apprenticeship with the right company. These candidates will now be put forward with our customers.

We also serve a host of organisations across the country and the clearing line is highly beneficial for them. A greater number of candidates speaking with us on results day means an influx in applicants for those organisations with apprenticeship roles with us.

Many of the candidates we interacted with on results day will interview very soon and some will be in full-time roles in a matter of weeks. They will go on to be the next generation of tech and business talent needed to help plug the UK skills gap and drive the economy forward.

We also took a lot of calls from parents and guardians. Based on our previous experience, we knew this might be the case – this demographic naturally take an interest and want to know the facts about the apprenticeships offered today. It seems that a lot has changed, after all.

Our apprentice alumni were among the most popular on the day. Many budding learners clearly value the insight of those who have been there and done it. The essence of why we put on the apprenticeships clearing line was captured perfectly by one former apprentice, Amar. He told students: "Don’t let your results today define who you are tomorrow."

In the coming days, there will still be a higher volume of calls and we will continue to support potential apprentices. As is the case with ventures such as these, the bar has been set and the planning for next year begins almost immediately. 

William Macpherson is the chief executive officer at QA Ltd

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