From education to employment

Supporting apprentices must go beyond offering them a job: they need our help and guidance every step of the way

Sharon Blyfield

Sharon Blyfield, Head of Early Careers at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners reflects on 2023 and discusses why businesses that offer apprenticeships have a duty to guide their new recruits further than just offering the job, including equipping apprentices with financial skills.

Reflecting back on 2023, it has been a great year for the early careers landscape. We’ve continued to see the general attitude towards apprenticeships shift and many are understanding the value of alternative pathways as an option outside of the traditional university degree.

Sometimes, half the battle can be attracting the right talent for apprenticeship roles, whether it’s ensuring that school leavers are aware of the opportunities available to them or making sure we attract a diverse cohort. There is rightly a huge focus for employers on attracting diverse talent, but support shouldn’t stop once they’re through the door, understanding their needs and supporting them throughout their career is vital.

While it’s important that apprentices utilise the opportunities available to them during their apprenticeship, there is a lot we can do as employers to support their journey beyond the very early stages of their career, whether their programme is one year, four years or more.

Businesses like CCEP that offer apprenticeship programmes need to think about how to ensure our apprentices build momentum around their own careers and have as many doors opened to them to help further their career.

Getting out of the school mindset

When joining an apprenticeship scheme, many new faces are school leavers, and while the skills and resilience they built through these years are important for the workplace, often we need to support apprentices to get out of the school mindset and shift it to a fresh perspective for work.

Sometimes the stress and prospect of failure that comes from school exams is hard to shake off, so we need to help new apprentices transition to a positive mindset that is ready to take on the challenges and opportunities that their apprenticeship will offer.

Taking the leap from school into the corporate world can be a big change and there are many new learnings for an apprentice to take onboard. This is why peer to peer mentors are so important, as well as line managers, who can be available for questions, advice and regular one-to-ones. For example, we often try and pair up our year two apprentices with a new intake so they can pass down everything they’ve learnt over the last year, whether that’s work or college related, so they can have a friendly face who they’re able to approach as and when they need. After all, we all need that person we can ask the questions we are not sure of too!

Equipping apprentices with financial skills

Taking part in an apprenticeship could be the first time that a young person has ever had to manage a salary and as financial education is not yet in place in all school curricula, it’s up to managers and business leaders to teach our apprentices about financial literacy and managing your finances well.

We want to ensure that our apprentices thrive both from a career and personal standpoint, and employers could make a real difference to young employees by supporting them with money management programmes and resources. There are lots of different guides and programmes available, many of which are detailed on the Money & Pensions Services website.

Putting resources like this in place for employees can have a number of benefits, including improving the financial and mental wellness of employees by encouraging them to adopt good financial habits and, in turn, helping to build a resilient workforce.

Making experiences as inclusive as possible

Through our ‘Everyone’s Welcome’ philosophy, CCEP we’re creating an environment where everyone is encouraged to ‘Be Yourself, Be Valued, Belong’. Embedding this ethos within an apprenticeship programme is critical. Our colleagues have been working hard to build and shape our internal allyship and Inclusion, Diversity and Equity (ID&E) programme made up of 500+ colleagues, which has a series of events and communications initiatives and is focused around our five key inclusion pillars – Culture & Heritage, Disability, Gender, LGBT+ and Multi-generations. The pillars are open for everyone to get involved in, whether they’re new to the business or more senior.

Through a programme of events, workshops and training sessions, the network aims to foster an environment where colleagues can feel like they can come to work as their best selves because they feel comfortable in their environment – and have people to reach out to when they don’t. 

This also means making sure we have tools in place to support apprentices, whether they need help with learning difficulties like dyslexia and dyspraxia, health-related issues for which they need special adjustments, supporting cultural or gender requirements, or understanding how we can make our offices and manufacturing sites more accessible. However, it’s also important to recognise that each person is different and might need help navigating their career journey to be able to reach their potential, which is again why a support system of mentors and regular one-to-ones with line managers are so essential.

In essence, implementing your own effective support system for the apprenticeship programme within your business is key, putting the health and wellness of your employees at the forefront. Every new face will require different assistance to thrive in their career journey and we remain steadfast in our efforts to make our early careers opportunities as supportive and inclusive as possible for all.

Sharon Blyfield OBE, Head of Early Careers at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners

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