Making the most of apprenticeships

Making the most of apprenticeships
Elise Rawlins, sustainability apprentice at Bidfood
10/04/2017 - 14:36
Following the introduction of the apprenticeship levy on April 6th, Jackie Byrne, talent manager at Bidfood, discusses how employers can make the most of such training schemes and help grow the UK’s talent pool.

Nurturing skills

“Apprenticeships are no longer seen as a ‘nice to have’ for employers – they represent a huge opportunity to expand and strengthen the skill set within a company’s workforce. And this isn’t just for new apprentices, supporting and developing the capabilities of your existing team should also be high on the agenda.

Get a grip on retention

“Providing a valuable apprenticeship programme is just the first hurdle. Overseeing the smooth settling-in period of a new apprentice is vital to keeping them on the curriculum and ensuring that it is a beneficial experience for everyone involved.

“Here’s my round-up of the top three tips for a successful apprenticeship programme:

  1. Take your time: Taking on an apprentice is a big responsibility. The first few weeks are usually ‘make or break’ and employers need to invest enough time and allow their apprentices to settle in well, feel supported and comfortable with their role and responsibilities.
  2. Buddy up: Providing your new apprentice with a mentor or ‘buddy’ is key to making them feel supported. Having one point of contact means they can ask questions and rely on someone for help.
  3. Taster sessions: Giving your apprentice an induction to their new role before they start the programme helps to instil confidence that there won’t be any hidden surprises once they start. Showing them around their new workplace, offering them a chance to meet the team and giving them a taste of what their usual day will look like is a highly valuable measure to consider.

Scoping out opportunities for skills

“It goes without saying that skills shortages are a big concern for the foodservice industry. It is important that we use apprenticeships effectively to develop skills in much-needed areas and ensure young people are ‘work ready’ to fill these job vacancies.

“We’ve had experience of this in our own business. Our drivers are invaluable to us and make up 20% of our workforce. However, one of our challenges is that many of them have been with the business for a number of years and are now approaching a time in their lives where they may want to hang up their keys and relax. With this in mind, we needed to recruit highly skilled drivers to replace and continue the great work of our existing team members. We also wanted to give our older drivers the chance to share their vast knowledge and experience with their successors. 

“Our two-year pilot training programme was launched in February 2016, in partnership with our training provider, Mantra Learning, to ensure we meet the long-term growth and replenishment requirements for our HGV drivers. Part of the scheme is to train the individuals to become both a licenced and competent professional Cat C HGV driver as well as achieving Apprenticeships in Level 2 Logistics Operations and Driving Goods Vehicles. It encourages retention through structured development and recognises qualifications and we intend to rollout the programme on a national scale once the pilot is complete.

“Investing in employees plays a huge part in staff retention and job satisfaction. At Bidfood, we’ve been able to look at new ways of training our employees and can now offer them apprenticeships at degree-level. What’s more, we have put 60 existing employees into level 2 and 3 NVQs in the last year.”

A day in the life of...Elise Rawlins, sustainability apprentice at Bidfood (pictured)

What does your average week look like as a sustainability apprentice?

“No day is the same, which is perfect for me. I get the chance to attend various events to help promote our different sustainability initiatives and work closely with our sustainability co-ordinators at each of our depots (these are employees who have a passion for sustainability). I also help to organise and run regular workshops, to keep people up to date with the company’s latest sustainability initiatives.”

What do you enjoy most about being an apprentice?

“To me, the idea of apprenticeships is amazing. I have been given the opportunity to learn, gain skills and to achieve a qualification, all in one year! It’s the perfect amount of responsibility, so I feel trusted and never overwhelmed.

“The Bidfood team is very patient and always willing to answer any questions I have – and my manager is a fantastic listener and mentor. I am also constantly surrounded by industry experts who offer a wealth of knowledge across different areas.”

What’s your proudest achievement?

“Before the start of my apprenticeship programme, I had never done a formal presentation in front of a large group of people I didn’t know. So, as you can imagine, the first one was pretty nerve-racking. I found that as soon as I started talking, my passion for the subject kicked in and I no longer needed my notes. This was a key moment, as I knew I had found a job that was perfect for me.”

What will be your lasting impressions as an apprentice?

“I love my role at Bidfood, potential was seen in me that I had not yet realised, which has given me so much confidence. I am very excited to see what this role will bring in the future.”  

For more information on Bidfood’s apprenticeship programme visit, 0370 3663 100.

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