RAPID: Choosing a different path

Europa’s RAPID scheme offers a high-value alternative to university for many school leavers.

What happens if I don’t go to uni? This is a question pondered by many 17-year-olds as they near the end of their mandated years in education. In 2019, UCAS revealed that a record 236,350 school leavers applied to go to university. This is a sizeable figure, but one that still only accounts for 40 per cent of the total leaving school or college. Many young people are instead looking for opportunities to continue to develop their skills while in the world of work.

Following a successful pilot in 2018, Europa Worldwide Group, a freight forwarder employing 900 people across 16 sites in the UK, launched its ambitious and innovative plan in early 2019 called RAPID Career Development Programme. The programme, designed for 18 to 21-year-olds as a fast-track route into management, offers an opportunity for school leavers who have decided university is not the route for them.

The programme is the brainchild of Europa’s Managing Director, Andrew Baxter, who started work straight from school and who is a passionate advocate of learning on the job.  The four-year RAPID programme is the first of its kind and offers enthusiastic school leavers a career in logistics. The overriding goal of the programme is to appeal to highly ambitious and focused individuals who are keen to learn in the workplace while starting to progress in their career.

“Although I started working straight from school, today I’m directing an international business, employing over 900 staff,” says Andrew. The programme was launched “to find the young people out there who have the same drive and passion as me and my senior team and to embed them within our business from a young age,” he added.

Universal challenges

A recent report by Talent in Logistics has revealed significant recruitment issues in the sector. According to the report, only eight per cent of young people consider the sector as attractive and 40 per cent don’t even know what logistics is. Programmes like RAPID are essential if the sector is going to recruit young adults to fill the high number of vacancies in the sector. Currently, only nine per cent of the workforce is under 25 years of age and 45 per cent is over 45.

Competition is not just steep within the logistics sector but it is so across all sectors of the global economy. Logistics operators must look beyond their immediate economic competitors for talent. They must look towards the competition, which includes companies in manufacturing, IT, retail and public services. Employers in these sectors also need skilled and driven young people to join their workforce.

Young people are demanding more from employers, especially when joining the workplace directly from school. Development and training are a priority for many entering the workforce and it is equally crucial for the sector in retaining talent in the industry. Although it is not always financially practical for smaller companies, those that can provide formal training programmes for new employees find there is tremendous value in doing so.

Learning on the job

The first successful candidate to secure a job through the programme was 18-year-old Max Holbrook in August 2018. “I knew that university wasn’t the best option for me. I worked in retail while I was at school and wanted to get into a career straightaway rather than continue in education,” said Max. “I find it’s much better to learn hands-on especially with an experienced company in an ever-growing industry,” he added.

Through the RAPID programme, young people like Max will progress from junior/trainee team members to experienced account managers earning upwards of £30,000 per year. “This sort of opportunity for school leavers is rare, if not unheard of in my experience, and we’re thrilled to be leading the way in piloting such an exciting and dynamic initiative,” said Dionne Redpath, Branch and Sales Director at Europa.

Attracting the right candidates

Recruiting the right talent is one of the biggest challenges facing logistics operators and one which very few get right. Ahead of launching the scheme, Dionne Redpath, alongside Group Recruitment and Talent Manager, Vanita Dass-Puri, conducted a search for the country’s brightest and most passionate students interested in a career in logistics. This began in spring 2019 and included visits to over 40 schools and events around the country, meeting over 700 interested students. “We want to make sure that young people understand the logistics sector,” commented Laura Watkin, Head of Talent at Europa. A key element of the scheme is ensuring that candidates understand the opportunities that exist in logistics and take a long-term career view of their decision to join RAPID.

Following the successful induction of the 2019 cohort, Europa is promoting the programme to schools and sixth form colleges across the country for 2020. “We are sharing Lana’s expertise with careers leaders to ensure we support them with relevant information about the sector,” said Laura.

The outreach work even includes “RAPIDs” themselves talking to, and working with, prospective students to make sure they are informed and equipped to take advantage of the options open to them. “We’re delighted with interest levels to date and are already receiving applications,” said Laura, “we’ve even had applicants hoping to secure a place for September 2021.”

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