Unilever: Careers case study

Unilever is a FMCG company producing products such as PG Tips, Flora, Hellmans, Walls Ice Cream and Persil. It has its own branded apprenticeship scheme in the UK to provide a steady supply of full trained engineering technicians.

Unilever is a FMCG company producing products such as PG Tips, Flora, Hellmans, Walls Ice Cream and Persil. It has its own branded apprenticeship scheme in the UK to provide a steady supply of full trained engineering technicians. The majority of applicants for the apprenticeship programme are aged between sixteen and nineteen years old. The business recruits up to 10 apprentices per year although the number can vary depending on the business.

According to Hazel Elderkin, Unilever Project Manager: “Our factories are becoming more complex as a result of product innovation and advancements in technology. This, obviously, drives out requirements for technical leadership and capabilities. At the same time, marketplace recruitment is becoming more difficult as there is a limited talent pool to select from."

“Engineering technicians are moving away from the classic fire fighting and basic inspections areas to focus on more in-depth improvement issues related to these latest technologies and novel materials. They increasingly understand the interaction between machines and material.”

Unilever has set up a successful partnership with West Cheshire College. The college had delivered training to apprentices based locally but following feedback was appointed to deliver training to apprentices across the UK. They now deliver training to around 90% of Unilever apprentices. Around eight people are admitted to the Unilever apprentice training programme each year.Unilever UK has a rota of co-ordinators who take turns to visit the apprentices at the college and monitoring of the apprentices' progress is built into the four year programme at three monthly intervals.

Some of the academic projects developed by the apprentices through Unilever and the college have brought direct benefits into the workplace. For example, improvements surrounding a solenoid control box cut down time by a third and save around £18,000 per year.

In another example, a fourth year apprentice reviewed factory top losses, identified a pump and set about looking to eliminate the risk of the pump failing and addressing inaccurate level measurements in the tanks. Annual savings of £1250 per pump were achieved as well as improved power utilisation and elimination of waste.

“The Unilever UK Manufacturing Apprenticeship is now a fully aligned four year development road map forming part of a ten year career path” says Hazel Elderkin. “It incorporates academic, National Vocational Qualification and Unilever modules, personal development, departmental and site rotation, placements and secondments. It includes skills and technology development above the Government standard.”

Apprentices qualify with a Level 3 NVQ in engineering, a BTEC national certificate in engineering and Higher National Certificates in operations.

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Last reviewed: 09 Dec 2013