The Central Office of Information handles all of the public sectors communications campaigns, outsourcing planning and delivery to a network of 26 accredited agencies in the UK. bcsAgency is one such agency, approved to advise and assist the Government, local authorities and other public sector organisations with all types of marketing.
Appointment to handle individual campaigns is won through a competitive pitch process, one of the campaigns won by bcsAgency was a brief to promote the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) in the East Midlands; with a particular focus on National Apprenticeship Week.
National Apprenticeship Week is an annual event designed to 1.) raise awareness of the benefits in order to get more organisations to take on apprentices; and 2.) get more people to apply for positions via the NAS online portal.
To achieve these goals with a relatively small budget, bcsAgency had to formulate and execute a strategy to include: the engagement of learning providers; the organisation of multiple joint events with colleges, local councils and employers from each sub-area of the region and the coordination of media attendance/coverage of these events; and the placement of individual case studies in the local business and lifestyle press.
bcsAgency initially contacted all major learning providers in Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire. Briefings were arranged to ascertain the particular specialisms of each institution, followed by event conceptualisation and planning.
Employers identified as particularly ‘friendly’ were also contacted from each sub-region to request involvement in the week’s activities, either through providing event participation or by creating a separate event. These events were then managed by bcsAgency.
One event, arranged in conjunction with Derby College, was centred on the college’s outstanding catering teaching facilities and involved a cook-off competition with six apprentices from local restaurants and hotels. The challenge was to cook a three course meal from given ingredients, much like the ‘ingredients test’ on Masterchef, with the judges being celebrity chef Sat Baines, the business editor of the Derby Telegraph and the head of the College’s catering school.
Other events included a well attended photo opportunity with Leicester City footballer Matt Elliot at the club stadium, and council officials mucking out animal enclosures at Twycross Zoo, looking after children at a daycare centre, and becoming gardeners for the day.
Where colleges and employers were not able to dedicate time and resource to a specific event, case studies were drafted for the local and regional media, and subsequently issued at the appropriate time before, during and after the Week to maximise coverage.
During the National Apprenticeship Week East Midlands campaign, 19 interviews and features aired on the regional broadcast media, 78 articles and features appeared in the regional news, business and education print media, and 4 online specific articles appeared on targeted websites.
Over the period of the campaign the number of employers visiting the website doubled compared to the 2009 average, with enquiries to the NAS from employers registering their interest in taking on an apprentice increasing fourfold. This took numbers for this type of enquiry past 1,000 for the first time and subsequently led to a record number of over 500 vacancies being posted on the online portal. Positive leads for the week increased by 391% from 2009.
On the other side of the coin, 250 prospective apprentices visited the site to register to view opportunities in Apprentice Week alone.
These results surpassed client expectations, and many of the initiatives undertaken by bcsAgency were held up as national best practice to be adopted by all regions in the future.
COI National Apprenticeship Service
Location: East Midlands