HIRING apprentices is the best way of ensuring your business has the skilled, dynamic workforce it needs to flourish, according to Dame Fiona Kendrick, the chairman and chief executive of Nestle UK & Ireland.
Dame Fiona made the comments after Nick Boles MP, the Minister of State for Skills, paid a visit to Nestlé in York to officially launch National Apprenticeship Week.
Nestlé has been offering apprenticeships for more than 55 years. There are currently 146 apprentices within the company, with 25 based at the York factory and a further 17 within the head office at the same site.
The firm makes up to seven million KitKat bars a day at its York plant.
Nestlé has placed the emphasis on investing in its talent pipeline, because half of the food and drink sector’s employees are due to retire in the next 20 years.
This year, Nestlé will recruit at least 65 apprentices across seven factory sites and its two head offices including 12 apprentices at the York factory and 18 in its York HQ. The company employs 1,800 people in York and 500 in Halifax.
Dame Fiona told The Yorkshire Post: “We want to try and raise the profile of what we believe to be fundamentally such an important career path.
“We need to bring the right people into the organisation and provide them with the skills we are going to need in the future.”
Dame Fiona said that she was very proud that Nestlé UK and Ireland was on track to meet its commitment to create 1,900 employment opportunities for young people between 2013 and 2016.
She added: “It’s a phenomenal additional number... young people are being offered the best opportunities and the best experience we can offer today. How do we broaden the whole concept of apprenticeships?”
She said that Nestlé is a co-founder of the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship, which has been developed in partnership with the CMI (Chartered Management Institute) and Sheffield Hallam University.
Dame Fiona added: “What that displays is how young people can take different career paths when they leave school.
“An apprenticeship is a fantastic, positive career choice to make.”
She added: “Investment in people and technology is vital to boost productivity and apprenticeships are absolutely key to that.
“We need a skilled, dynamic workforce and apprenticeships are the perfect way to make sure of that while at the same time offering a fantastic opportunity to start a new career.”
When asked about her views on the forthcoming EU referendum, Dame Fiona said: “This is a matter for the British people to decide.
“There’s no question the UK is a very important market for Nestle. We want to continue to be attractive for investment. Economic certainty is always good for business.”
Dame Fiona also highlighted the fact that Nestle UK & Ireland has been one of the principle partners of the Living Wage Foundation since November 2014.
Mr Boles said: “Whether it’s cutting-edge engineering or producing the latest chocolate bar, Nestlé are offering young people their big break with an apprenticeship.
“Apprenticeships really can take you anywhere.”
Mr Boles said the Government was joining forces with businesses across the country to create three million apprenticeships by 2020.
The Skills Minister, Nick Boles MP, also visited the British Gas Academy in Leeds to mark the beginning of National Apprenticeship Week, which will act as a showcase for modern apprenticeships.
The Leeds Academy trains both smart metering and central heating installation apprentices. It is the national centre for delivering British Gas’s electrical servicing traineeships.
British Gas has also released the findings of a survey which indicates that many workers in Leeds (46 per cent) would not consider an apprenticeship as they wrongly think they are just for school leavers. In fact, almost a third of British Gas apprentices are over 30.