Apprenticeships: safeguarding the future

Steve Adams explains how Coca-Cola European Partners is helping to inspire, attract and retain future talent through its commitment to apprenticeships across Great Britain.

During this year’s National Apprenticeship Week, the team at Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) is celebrating the vital role that apprenticeships play across the supply chain here in Great Britain.

Steve Adams, group director of supply chain operations, Coca-Cola European Partners.
Steve Adams, group director of supply chain operations, Coca-Cola European Partners.

Coca-Cola European Partners understands the importance of providing a combination of education, vocational training, apprenticeships and experiences to help educate and inspire the younger generation of professionals.

We are strong believers in apprenticeships as a valuable route into the business world and are delighted to be launching our largest ever apprentice recruitment drive, investing more than £1m into our programme and increasing the number of apprentices across our GB operations by more than 50%.

We currently have 63 apprentices working across our business, with a further 37 being recruited this year bringing the total to 100. Seventeen of those new apprentices will join our operations across East Kilbride, Sidcup, Edmonton and Wakefield, as well as our Milton Keynes Operations Centre, Distribution Centre in Northampton and 20 to our field sales operations.

Supporting the development of young talent and upskilling employees is a pivotal step in harnessing the benefits of an evolving business landscape. In the future, as a generation of experienced employees retire, the skills gap will continue to grow and while an increased use of technology such as automation will be beneficial for businesses, people will remain vital to tackling both the challenges of sustainability and commercial success.

Last year we undertook a joint project with Cranfield University, revealing valuable insights into the future of manufacturing and uncovering five pathways that will drive the food and drink industry towards its vision of sustainability. One of these pathways was ‘Inspiring and Empowering the Future Generation’, a core focus of our work as a business, and an important way of futureproofing entire sectors.

CCEP and Cranfield research revealed five pathways that will drive the food and drink industry towards its vision of sustainability.

CCEP and Cranfield research revealed five pathways that will drive the food and drink industry towards its vision of sustainability.

Research shows that fewer than one in seven students are now choosing Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths (STEM) subjects at A Level or equivalent, something we would like to help change through our ongoing education and apprenticeship programmes.

We’re committed to reaching learners as early as possible and have invested more than £4m in our GB education programme over the past six years, engaging some 500,000 young people.

We are also proud to be one of several businesses working with the government-backed Your Life campaign, promoting STEM education by working with local schools and students across Great Britain to provide valuable educational visits.

It is more important than ever for leaders in the food and drink manufacturing industry to integrate with schools and universities in order to attract talent. This is something we’re very proud of as a business, having recruited many talented apprentices through ongoing relationships with local colleges.

One of our current engineering apprentices, Josh Sloan, based in our East Kilbride site, was last year shortlisted for several leading industry awards including The Manufacturer MX Awards for his stellar work during his apprenticeship so far, while local Wakefield apprentice Kodi Gledhill was recently named one of the finalists in the Everywoman in Technology Awards. It has been very rewarding for us to see our apprentices develop into top professionals under the guidance of their teams.

Josh Sloan, apprentice, Coca-Cola European Partners - East Kilbride - Apprenticeships
Josh Sloan, apprentice, Coca-Cola European Partners – East Kilbride.

This guidance is something that we like to incorporate into all stages of our apprentice recruitment process. For example, our work with MyKindaFuture supports both our supply chain and field sales apprenticeships. MyKindaFuture is an organisation which helps employers reach and recruit future talent from schools, colleges and universities.

As part of these programmes, we invite candidates to take part in local workshops, helping to develop their core business skills and creativity through practical activities such as presentation and key interview techniques. These skills-based sessions help to lay the foundations for young talent as they enter the world of work.

With all of this in mind, it is vital for businesses to continue their ongoing support from education to employment. Business leaders should make it a priority to inspire learners from an early age, attract a diverse range of talent by offering a range of routes into the business, and retain talent through continued opportunities to grow. We have a fantastic breadth of talent here in GB and it is important for businesses across the manufacturing industry to harness this effectively.