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Why apprenticeships are key at Weetabix

Apprenticeships are a great way to attract skilled young people and benefit businesses too

In the next five years it’s estimated that a large proportion of engineers will choose to retire. The loss of this engineering experience puts growth at risk across 8,000 UK food manufacturing firms.

A lack of young people pursuing jobs in engineering and manufacturing is a real problem. Food manufacturing is booming; it’s seeing strong growth and brands such as ours are rapidly growing. But with an industry-wide engineering skills gap looming it’s crucial we don’t compromise this growth by failing to attract much-needed new talent.

To continue strengthening the local economy Weetabix recognises the need to invest in the brightest manufacturing and engineering brains. With the apprenticeship levy coming into effect next April it’s even more important that HR directors and business executives build apprenticeships into their strategies. Apprenticeship schemes are a great way to attract the skills of young people. They offer companies the chance to be directly involved in nurturing and harnessing their talent.

Apprenticeship schemes have long-term benefits for businesses too. Reports show they boost employee retention and increase workplace morale.

And that’s why Weetabix has launched a new engineering and manufacturing apprenticeship scheme in partnership with Tresham (a college of further and higher education with campuses across Northamptonshire). The scheme will begin with four individuals in 2016, comprising two apprentices in manufacturing and two in engineering, with plans to take eight per year from 2017.

It’s a fantastic opportunity for Weetabix; taking a positive step towards supporting Britain’s future leaders and increasing job prospects for the local community.

Successful apprentices will train at Weetabix’s Burton Latimer or Corby facilities for four days a week and spend a minimum of one day a week at college. This requires flexibility and empathy from line managers and careful handling. We’re therefore giving the apprentices dedicated mentors to provide practical tutorship in manufacturing, engineering and frontline leadership.

It’s imperative that managers are fully equipped with the skills, knowledge and understanding to support and encourage our young apprentices. The dedicated mentors will undergo a skills refresh; completing modules at Tresham College in coaching and mentoring. Through this training our mentors will develop highly personal yet professional relationships with the apprentices.

Apprenticeship programmes are an important route for many, but are not the only route. So we are also providing educational sponsorship to young engineers and manufacturing managers. Successful applicants will be given financial support to purchase tools or study aids for their courses, receive guaranteed work experience placements at Weetabix, and be fast-tracked to interview stage for the apprenticeship course the following year.

Weetabix champions the benefits apprenticeship schemes have to offer and believes they are one of the best ways to ensure companies make the most of the young talent available. It’s proud to be launching this new scheme because it’s a chance to unlock the talent on our doorstep, and guarantee the company’s harnessing and retaining the experts and leaders of the future.

We’re confident this will in turn support the UK’s reputation as a leading engineering and manufacturing nation and continue to strengthen the economy.

Alex Cosgrove is head of UK manufacturing at Weetabix Food Company