Andrew Peckston, Manufacturing Development Manager and Apprenticeship Programme Lead at Mondelez International discusses National Apprenticeship Week and the value of trained apprentices to businesses.
With youth employment a major concern at the moment, and the value a university degree under debate, there has never been a more relevant time to raise the profile of apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals and businesses. National Apprenticeship Week is a great opportunity to showcase the variety of options on offer to young people, and demonstrate just how valuable an experience an apprenticeship can be as a route into full time employment.
Having started my career as an apprentice back in the 1980s, I’ve experienced both sides – from developing my skills as a novice, to appreciating the value that new apprentices can bring to a business from an employer’s perspective. Like many other teenagers, I already knew that university was not for me but was initially unsure about what other path to take. I wanted to learn on the job and to invest my time with a company that was going to provide me with prospects at the end. With this in mind, I originally started on a four year apprenticeship programme with Dairy Crest where I learnt my trade as a Maintenance Engineer. At the end of my programme I was offered a full time position as a multi-skilled engineer on shift.
One of the most significant things I have learnt in my time as both apprentice and manager is value of a specialised apprenticeship. Not only does it make you indispensible as an employee, but also gives you the industry knowledge and confidence to progress quickly. Since joining Cadbury (now Mondel?z International), my career has gone from strength to strength. My initial training as an apprentice has grounded me firmly in my chosen industry and has allowed me to develop into an expert in my field, now accountable for a team numbering around 300, with budgetary responsibility measured in the tens of millions of pounds. For a business like ours, which is heavily focused on manufacturing and innovation, expertise is key. Recruiting young people and supporting their training and development is crucial to providing the right technical expertise. Organisations who fail to tap into young talent face the risk of skills shortages. We’ve seen this challenge ourselves. Research, Development and Quality (RD&Q) is vital to Mondel?z International’s business, but in the past we have sometimes struggled to recruit the right skills and expertise. This is why we recently created a new RD&Q apprenticeship course, using a similar structure to the manufacturing and engineering apprenticeships, which have been providing a strong, sustainable pipeline of talent for a number of years.
Developing progressive apprenticeships is something we feel passionately about. On leaving school, many young people don’t have a clear idea about the breadth of apprenticeships on offer, or understand that they provide routes into less well-known fields such as research. It’s important we challenge this outdated perception and showcase the array of options out there, catering for all different sorts of aspirations. Our apprentices have made a huge impact to our business, working on and developing some of Britain’s most iconic brands, including Cadbury Dairy Milk, Bassett’s and Kenco. Through our apprenticeship programme we’re able to ensure we create a sustainable base of specifically-trained employees, with the right mix of both the practical skills and academic qualifications we need.
From the outset, we focus on mentoring our apprentices and provide training specific to our business, enabling them to develop and flourish into highly skilled employees who are really valuable asset to our future. Although the role of an apprentice may have changed over the years, the principles and pride have not. An apprenticeship with us is a coveted role. As the UK’s largest manufacturer in confectionery, we remain dedicated to employing and training local youngsters. When I look back over the last 25 years of my career, I remember the words of my first Chief Engineer on joining; “With an apprenticeship and a lot of hard work, there is no limit to the career opportunities that are open to you”. In my experience, my apprenticeship gave me the perfect training for the industry I wanted to go into, and allowed me to flourish within it.