Delivering growth through apprenticeships

Between 2010-2020 we will require over 170,300 new employees


The food and drink manufacturing industry is a fast-paced innovative sector with ambitions to grow sustainably by 20% by 2020.

Our growth depends on a number of factors, but key to achieving our ambition will be the development of a skills 'pipeline' to provide us with highly qualified and well trained employees for the future.

We anticipate that between 2010-2020 we will require over 170,300 new employeesSam Roberts, 41,000 of which will be needed in management roles. Although increased automation has lessened the demand for production based employees, the focus of our roles has changed and the industry now requires the best qualified engineers to research and develop new processes and highly skilled food scientists to design and develop the next generation of food products.

To meet this demand we need to change perceptions of careers in food and drink manufacturing. In 2011 we launched our Taste Success campaign, through which we are engaging directly with schools, young people and their influencers to bring to life the exciting range of opportunities in our sector. We must also develop the correct qualification routes to ensure that we have personnel with skills specific to our industry - this we are doing through Graduate Excellence - the UK's first food manufacturing engineering degree course.

There is significant demand too for 'home-grown' talent – people who join a company at an early stage in their career and have the opportunity to study for further qualifications whilst gaining vocational skills.

This has led to the development of FDF's Apprenticeship Pledge, a commitment made in August 2011 to double the number of industry apprenticeships to 3400 by the end of 2012. FDF member companies signed-up to this ambitious target and at the end of 2012, we had smashed our target, reaching 7,535 apprenticeships offered.


The journey towards doubling

The food and drink industry is a broad and innovative industry requiring a variety of academic and vocational skills. Apprenticeships have been available in the industry for many years but with changing employer priorities and the importance placed onTim Campbell and CPA apprentices degree qualifications – this, until recently, had been a less recognised route into food and drink manufacturing.

However with many companies requiring bespoke skills, only available through in-house training, and the changing situation regarding university tuition fees, it seemed an opportune time for the industry to consider other ways of developing its skills for the future.

Throughout 2012, FDF worked to help companies understand the benefits that apprenticeships can bring. Understanding that for small businesses in particular, the paperwork and research involved in creating apprenticeships can be daunting, FDF in partnership with the National Apprenticeship Service and National Skills Academy for Food and Drink organised a series of Apprenticeship Roadshows to help companies through the process.

The Roadshows took place in London, Birmingham, Preston and Edinburgh and involved member companies, including both employees and apprentices, giving first-hand accounts of their experiences.


Why consider an apprenticeship?

According to a recent Improve survey – 80% of employers agree that apprentices make their workforce more productive. As well as bringing in talented young peopleMark Prisk talking to apprentices with new ideas, an Apprenticeship programme can greatly help succession planning as older employees retire and others leave the workforce.

It can also be beneficial for up-skilling current employees who have joined the business in a different role. An apprenticeship offers the opportunity to develop and train someone according to your business priorities and workforce culture, at the same time as they are developing skills and achieving qualifications.

As apprenticeship training for 16-18 year olds is fully funded - and for 19 years plus is co-funded by Government, Apprenticeship schemes represent a cost effective way to support and train new staff.

Apprenticeship programmes need to reflect business needs and be part of your workforce strategy.

Developing apprenticeships

The Mars Chocolate experience by Amanda Davies, Mars HR Director

Faced with a shortage of suitably qualified mechanical engineers, Mars Chocolate UK set up its apprenticeship scheme, offering school leavers the opportunity to gain real skills and qualifications while working and learning about the business.

Amanda DaviesThis is a highly tailored scheme, which supports a small number of apprentices on a four-year programme. The first year is spent studying full-time towards a BTEC in Mechanical Engineering at Kingston College.

Over the next three years, apprentices are integrated into the business, offering them the chance to understand how different parts of the company operate and the opportunity to shadow people in a range of positions. At the end of the programme, apprentices are ready to be signed off as Reliability Technicians.

The programme was developed because of the need to bring suitably qualified Mechanical Engineers into the business and to equip them with the necessary qualifications and skills required by Mars. It also enables Mars, a private-family owned company, to put its principles into action, ensuring that the scheme delivers mutual benefits for the apprentices and supporting them to gain the skills they need to succeed in the workplace.

Finally, the programme is driven by the desire to grow talent within the local community and support a strong UK manufacturing base.

The key success factor for the apprenticeship scheme is to ensure a suitable talent pipeline to support current and future business needs while investing in individual talent. It has enabled the business to build links with the local community, increased engagement levels among employees, reinforced Mars' commitment to UK manufacturing, and given a select group of apprentices the chance to further their education, equipping them with the skills they need to succeed and thus putting Mars' Mutuality principle into action.

Our advice to other businesses wanting to develop an apprentice programme would be:

  1. Understand your demand, i.e. where do you have challenges recruiting externally, which could be solved by developing talent through an apprentice programme.
  2. Identify a great partner college to support the programme and work hard to build a strong relationship with that college.
  3. Identify great line managers within your business who can nurture and support your apprentices.
  4. Recognise that apprentices are an investment in the future talent of your business so it is vital that you give them the time and support they need to develop.

The Nestlé experience by Nestlé HR Director Matt Stripe

“By investing in apprentices now, we are growing our own talent for the future"

Nestlé has been involved with apprenticeships locally at its sites for more than 40 years and these schemes have helped to develop the high levels of skill we have in Matt Daviesour factories today. Although apprenticeships have always been present, in the last few years we have recognised the valuable behaviours that apprenticeships bring to our organisation. Apprenticeship schemes allow flexible entry points in to the organisation and we have broadened our offerings beyond the traditional operational routes.

Our apprentices develop technical skills and knowledge that is tailored to our operations and processes through a collaborative approach between ourselves and our provider. As our apprentices learn on the job they also develop the desired Nestlé behaviours and how to do things 'the Nestlé way' as second nature which breeds incredible loyalty and pride for Nestlé. Apprenticeships enable us to offer employment to the local community.

Many of our sites are in rural communities where we are one of or the only major employer in the area. We are able to offer young people who cannot or do not want to leave their local area the option of achieving their potential and developing an exciting career with a Nestlé apprenticeship. We are now looking at ways we can leverage our apprenticeship schemes so that those who want to take advantage of the size, scale and variety of operations and locations that Nestlé has to offer can do so through their apprenticeship development.

Nestlé does not apply a one size fits all approach to apprenticeships and recognises that different sites have different needs. The apprenticeship framework we have developed enables sites to take advantage from a centralised support system which ensures quality and consistency of teaching, offers advice and support on developing new schemes to fit factory and functional needs. Our apprenticeship schemes develop the complementary skills apprentices need to become the leaders of tomorrow in our organisation whilst at the same time meeting our future resourcing and skill needs.

By investing in apprentices now, we are growing our own talent for the future, strengthening our talent pipeline to ensure skill gaps are eliminated and hard to source skills do not have to be bought in.


Steps to success

View six steps to success


Apprenticeship case studies

Sam Roberts, Apprentice Engineer, Unilever - and FDF Apprentice of the Year 2012

Sam is a fourth year apprentice engineer, based at Unilever's Trafford Park manufacturing site – the home of PG Tips, Scottish and Lyon's tea. View the Unilever case study.

Calum Marnock, Confectionery Apprentice - Mondeléz

Calum started with Mondeléz in September 2009 as a temporary operator. View the Mondeléz case study.

Lydia Cebreiro, Modern Apprentice, Business Administration - Nestlé UK & Ireland

Lydia joined Nestlé UK & Ireland in 2011 on its two year HR Apprenticeship programme as a recruitment coordinator. View the Nestlé case study.

Joe Breen, Apprentice Process Operator - Cargill

Joe is part of a team of three operators with responsibility for maintaining the effective running of the flour mill over a twelve hour shift. View the Cargill case study.

View more apprenticeship case studies


More Information

Last reviewed: 04 Apr 2014