"Apprentices are helping us future-proof our workforce"

"Apprentices are helping us future-proof our workforce"

Our apprenticeships are more than a learning programme. Designed alongside leading industry employers, our programmes combine honours level education with workplace learning to help address technical knowledge and skills gaps in the sector. 

We spoke to Richard Taylor, Technical Manager at Co-op Food to find out how recruiting apprentices have positively impacted their department and allowed them to stay ahead of the curve. 

“The number of young people joining the food industry workforce has been declining steadily, so offering apprenticeship roles is a great opportunity to future-proof our workforce. 

Recruiting a degree apprentice allows us to develop well-trained, highly skilled staff who can add value to our organisation. The programme provides us with the opportunity to shape and coach a young professional, meaning they learn the skills and knowledge directly relevant to their job, helping to reduce existing skills gaps in the industry. 

Our apprentice, Caitlin, joined the Co-op technical team as a degree apprentice straight from sixth form in 2020. Despite still not having met most of her wider team due to Covid pandemic she has not let this hinder her growth within the company and demonstrated great personal growth.

Exceeding expectations, 15 months sooner than planned, at age 18 Caitlin was given a product category 7 months into her apprenticeship and now having proved her capability by successfully relaunching the Co-op own brand soup range in 2021 she has been given an additional category to manage, as well as being promoted to Assistant Technologist.

Championing the Technical and Food Safety agenda Caitlin has focused on succeeding together by playing a fundamental role in developing allergen awareness training packs for Co-op academy students in response to Natasha’s allergen law.  The packs were recognised business wide and commended by third party allergen charities.

In addition to this Caitlin was also part of developing virtual allergen training course for Co-op colleagues highlighting the importance of allergen safety. This has made a massive difference raising awareness of the issue to colleagues and students.

Outside of her core role Caitlin has gone the extra mile to champion Co-op and is a great ambassador for the Co-op apprenticeship scheme. Having partaken in multiple apprenticeship campaign videos for the likes of Sheffield Hallam university and the BRC.

Through working with Sheffield Hallam we’ve been able to increase our access to a pool of educated, potential employees. Within our organisation, apprentices have made a significant contribution to our departmental goals and strategy and championed our best practices.

I’d absolutely recommend any business to take on degree apprentices. The myth that apprentices are a time costly drain on resources isn’t true. If your recruitment strategies and learning environment is correct, apprentices can provide a valuable contribution to industry and interdepartmental goals.”

Find out more about our food and drink apprenticeship programmes and the benefits of recruiting an apprentice

Recruiting apprentices is a great way to future-proof our workforce and bring fresh, young talent into the food industry. The myth that degree apprentices are a time costly drain on resources isn’t true. If your recruitment strategies and learning environment is correct, degree apprentices can provide a valuable contribution to your industry and help meet department goals.

Richard Taylor, Co-op Technical Manager

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