The National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) last week released some staggering figures that revealed advertised apprenticeship vacancies in England rose by almost a quarter, last year.

Vacancies are required to be posted on the NAS website, so this is broad and accurate evidence of the boom in the popularity of apprenticeship schemes among businesses. In total, more than 37,000 places were advertised between August and October 2013, a 24% increase year-on-year.

With the Financial Times reporting on the trend among some of the UK’s most well-recognised employers of using apprentices to successfully fill skilled vacancies, these figures can only be expected to rise even more.

However, demand is still outstripping supply. Apprentices are simultaneously becoming ever-more popular among young school-leavers and those looking to ‘earn and learn’, with the number of people applying for places rising by 43%. Each vacancy receives, on average, between 10 and 12 applications.

Such an imbalance means that those seeking the best candidates can face an administrative-heavy battle when assessing and selecting applicants. The task faced in finding the ideal apprentice is not just one of transactional recruitment conducted via sheer volume, though.

Apprentices, like any other candidate group, come in a variety of readiness, skill, capability and suitability. Rather than relying on applications alone, to find the best people a degree of proactivity is necessary – ideal advertising channels for the younger demographic are undoubtedly online and via social media. Moreover, not only are these avenues more cost-effective, but they also allow you to be more precise with your target marketing. Offline, going local will also prove highly beneficial. A regional campaign aimed at nearby schools and colleges provides a much higher level of targeted communication and will provide a solid platform from which to engage better with candidates.

Above all, the sourcing strategy needs to be specifically tailored to apprentices – they are a unique group and therefore demand a tailored approach. This extends throughout the recruitment process all the way through to employer branding and onboarding.