Well it’s been a busy month in the world of wine packaging. We’ve announced our not so secret plan of world domination as we start building our new 220,000 sq ft facility for 2020. This might sound exciting for most, however from a HR / recruitment perspective, we have pending new lines / processes to start recruiting and training for. We need to be planning now, not when it arrives in January.
Therefore in the past twelve months we have been slowly introducing apprentices to our family and hope that they will part of our journey to having the most modern, innovative and sustainable bottling facility in the world, well maybe the UK, or Europe (if we ever decide to stay or leave?).
We have recruited a further three youngsters in the warehouse, are interviewing for one to join Team HR, plus looking at internal upskilling in customer services and leadership in other parts of our group of companies. I feel like I eat and sleep apprenticeship frameworks and training schedules at the minute.
So what is an apprenticeship? … a paid period of training that allows you to learn a particular skill or set of skills. Traditionally this could be twelve months up to four years.
Apprenticeship or college? … I asked myself this at 16 years of age. Did I want to go to college then university to build up loads of knowledge (debt) then try to find a job … or should I look at being a Youth Trainee (ye olde fashioned apprenticeship) whereby I would gain work experience and be more employable. After much debate with family and tutors, I chose the apprenticeship route which thankfully landed me a permanent job within the first six months. I’ve looked back at this crossroads many times but I have to say I have never regretted taking this road.
Why should employers employ apprentices? Why would you employ a school leaver with no qualifications, life experience or maturity? Well for one, in the old days the training was funded by the government (now via the Apprenticeship Levy) so it was free tuition. Secondly, businesses could get away with paying lower wages (before the National Minimum Wage was introduced) so employers had labour at cheaper rates.
Modern businesses are obliged to think more ethically and managers look forward to the longevity of their organisation. Succession planning is one tool they can use. Using apprenticeships allows people to learn a trade from other skilled employees over a prolonged period, gaining work experience and an education in one period.
In my experience, I was able to learn several elements of the business before deciding which department I found the most interesting. It allowed me to be flexible in my work and decision making, as well as assisting many teams when they were short staffed. This allowed me to see how the teams worked together towards the end goal of the business but gave me confidence in the terminology and skills used across the site. In my whole working life, I have adopted this approach, to see where my role can assist in achieving and improving efficiencies of the whole organisation. Being a HR Manager doesn’t mean I don’t care about the end product. I need to focus on the skills needed in other areas to ensure our recruitment practices are effective and our teams are supported in the new technology.
How is the apprenticeship paid for? Over the years, the government funding has changed to be employer led. Its over two years since the government introduced the levy (tax). In the current (2018/19) tax year it is payable by all employers with an annual pay bill of more than £3 million at a rate of 0.5% of their total pay bill. The funds sit in a digital account that employers can use to pay registered training providers, provided trainees meet certain conditions. It does not pay for apprenticeship wages or the running costs of training facilities. The government also declared that there was a two year limit on funds, and any funds not used in this time would be lost (to the plethora of government slush funds).
What have we done? Initially, the funds were used to set up a Warehouse Academy – a scheme of taking on apprentices in the warehouse environment, to plug a skills shortage across the group and to reduce local youth unemployment. However, it has become apparent, that there may not be enough roles and trucks for this to be as successful as first thought. Therefore the scheme is slightly reduced from four cohorts every three months, to two every six months. We have even had our five minutes of fame !!!
Having kept a tally of funds deposited, used and committed to, it appeared there was still approximately £30k to use. We feel at this present time, we can’t take on any more staff, so have decided to look at current employees.
Our successes ? We are currently on Cohort 4 in the warehouse, 8/11 have survived. Two are going through their end point assessments in the coming weeks and will merge onto permanent employment contracts. Our HR Administrator is now a HR Officer after completing her Level 5 CIPD and I’m doing Level 3 Learning and Development so I can take on more accredited training on site and support the training providers in delivery apprenticeships. The long terms business goal is to self deliver apprenticeships.
With a business that has just announced huge growth, in all parts of the group, we welcome our three newbies to the family and look forward to the day we can retire and leave the running of the business to them. At least then I may be able to dream about sunshine holidays and garden flowers. Until then, I continue my mission to give youngsters the opportunities and mentoring I had during my early working life.