It’s National Apprenticeship Week, and employers, apprentices and industry professionals everywhere are shouting about the benefits that apprenticeships bring to their organisations. But what do these benefits look like to a business that manufactures some of the world’s best-loved brands like M&Ms, Pedigree and Ben’s Original? Let’s hear from Apprenticeship Programme Manager at Mars UK, Vikki Marriott…
We know that apprenticeship programmes provide great value to apprentices; they get on-the-job, comprehensive training in the skills they’ll need to succeed and advance their careers. They get daily hands-on experience to improve their trade. And, importantly, apprenticeships give people in these roles the opportunity to earn while they learn.
Apprenticeships also make good business sense. They work towards creating a well-rounded workforce that is adaptable to change and can inspire innovation throughout a business. This National Apprenticeship week, I’m reflecting on the three biggest benefits we’ve seen at Mars in the decades we’ve spent developing our apprenticeship schemes.
Attracting New Talent
The obvious benefit of developing a well-rounded apprenticeship programme is that you can attract a whole cohort of people who may not have found a route into your business otherwise. By creating a programme that appeals to their interests and benefits them in the long run, we’ve seen our business open doors to a wider pool of talent who are ready to learn and grow.
Consider this statistic: last year’s intake of university students will borrow about £45,800 each on average before they graduate. This is a huge burden. In the world we live in, this burden has created a huge gap in the market for those looking to develop employable skills without the debt.
By offering the upskilling element that other entry-level jobs often forego, apprenticeships serve as an imperative entry point for individuals who want work experience and want to continue learning without debt. As for the business benefit? The programme is a steadfast way of broadening the internal talent pool.
At Mars, we have seen direct proof that apprenticeship programmes are a great scheme for longer-term retention too. While our apprentices are often attracted to the business by our iconic brands, from Snickers and Maltesers to Whiskas and Ben’s Original, they stay for our approach to training and development. Almost 80% of our apprentices continue at Mars after graduating, embarking on an exciting career here for many years.
Meeting Business Needs
Nurturing home-grown talent is a challenge that continues to haunt hiring managers as the landscape of business continues to evolve. Apprenticeships offer a unique solution, allowing companies to create tailor-made programmes that will undoubtably build true home-grown talent.
These programmes offer a structured pathway for skill development, ensuring that your workforce remains adaptable and equipped to navigate the complexities of diverse industries. For instance, in fields like engineering and manufacturing, where skill gaps often loom large, apprenticeships become instrumental in developing a pipeline of skilled professionals.
This is exactly what we’re doing at Mars. By investing in our apprenticeship programmes, we’re able to develop talent from the ground up and in turn, plug those skill gaps and help fill vacancies. We have been doing this for decades through our Engineering and Operations apprenticeship programmes but also have a 3-year roadmap in place that aims to double the number of apprentices throughout the business, focusing on the future potential for growth to meet our evolving business needs.
Diversification of Teams for Innovation
At Mars, we firmly believe in the power of diversity and inclusion, and our commitment goes beyond rhetoric; it extends to the very fabric of our hiring and retention strategies. Creating a well-rounded workforce is not just a matter of good practice; it’s a strategic imperative for fostering innovation.
This approach to hiring and retention should, of course, cover all entry points into the business, however given its National Apprenticeship Week, I wanted to reflect on how we’re implementing it in this space.
The second avenue that we’re following on our roadmap is all about creating diverse entry-in pathways to improve access and availability of opportunity. Apprenticeship programmes are not just about meeting the gaps in your workforce, they’re also about cultivating a vibrant workforce that propels your company into the future.
Our new schemes that also cover apprenticeship opportunities in Sales, Marketing, Digital and Finance are drawing in people from our local community. Through our partnership with early talent specialists, Visionpath, we’ve been able to attract more school-leavers from the local community, with the aim to give more young people better access to professional mentors who can help them build the right skills, networks and insight to be able to thrive in their new careers.
Apprenticeships play a pivotal role in diversifying teams and contributing to a workplace culture that values varied perspectives and backgrounds. In turn, a diverse workforce allows businesses to grow by utilising unique skills and fresh outlooks, enabling more innovation and change. Investing in a diverse workforce is not only the right thing to do for the next generation but also the smart thing to do for business today.
As we navigate the challenges of the modern business landscape I, for one, believe the case for investing in apprenticeships becomes even more compelling. Apprenticeships lay the foundation for a rounded, balanced, and ultimately more successful workforce. The diverse experiences and skills brought in by apprentices contribute to an environment where innovation flourishes, and problem-solving becomes a collective endeavour.
When we embrace apprenticeship programmes, we aren’t just investing in the development of new talent as they kickstart their career journeys, but we’re ensuring the sustainability and success of our organisations in the years to come.
For more information on Mars UK’s apprenticeship opportunities see here.
Vikki Marriott, Mars UK’s Apprenticeship Programme Manager