Nurturing tomorrow's talent through industry collaboration and innovation
To mark National Apprenticeship Week, Leenert Den Hollander, Vice President & General Manager at Coca-Cola European Partners reflects on CCEP's work with young talent.
National Apprenticeship Week will be particularly significant for me this year, as I reflect on the growing work of Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) in supporting young talent across Great Britain and how we can continue to develop this further in years to come.
At CCEP we believe that apprenticeships are a valuable route into the business world for people living within our local communities. We’re therefore extremely pleased to be launching our largest ever apprentice recruitment drive this year, investing one million pounds into our programme, and growing our apprenticeship roles by more than 50 per cent across our operations in East Kilbride, Sidcup, Edmonton and Wakefield, as well as our Milton Keynes Operations Centre, Distribution Centre in Northampton and Customer Service Hub in Peterborough.
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 CCEP’s supply chain and cold drinks operations teams and 20 to our field sales operations – doubling the current number following the success of a pilot in 2016 which saw 10 students offered year-long placements in our field sales apprentice scheme. This includes sales reps being recruited for the Leeds, Manchester and London regions, as well as those working from our Customer Service Hub.
As a business built upon the strength of its people, we are committed to engaging and attracting talent from a diverse range of backgrounds, with different perspectives and ideas. This blend of skills and expertise is what makes us successful as a business, and can only be achieved effectively by offering a broad range of routes and opportunities into the business world, from vocational training to educational experiences.
Last year we released the findings of a joint research project with Cranfield University, uncovering five key pathways that will lead to a sustainable future for the manufacturing industry. One of these was ‘Joining Forces’, highlighting that in order for food and drink manufacturers to become key agents of change, we must work closely in partnership with other companies and with our retail customers, suppliers and society.
Finding new and innovative ways to engage with students is a key part of our aim to encourage a more diverse workforce in Great Britain, as well as inspiring young talent to consider careers in the manufacturing industry. Working closely with local schools and colleges is an important part of this, and we are proud to promote the advancement of Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths (STEM) with young people across Great Britain, by offering students valuable insights through onsite educational visits to our factories – seeing first-hand how innovative and exciting food and drink manufacturing can be.
The Government has established the Industrial Strategy, with skills development, particularly within STEM, being a key component. This is also a key consideration for CCEP - we want to meet that challenge – not least in how we can attract and retain the brightest men and women with science, technology, engineering and maths qualifications to help shape and grow our business. As manufacturer of the world’s best known product, there are specific roles we recruit for that require a STEM background. We await with interest the Government’s focus on streamlining the technical courses available, and would encourage strong consideration within this to the country’s largest manufacturing sector - food and drink - and how the industry’s success can be enhanced with a new group of applicants.
Over the past couple of months, we’ve also engaged with some 100,000 students across Great Britain as part of CCEP’s flagship enterprise competition, The Real Business Challenge. The competition supports our ongoing commitment to inspire and educate young people by giving them the opportunity to participate in a range of activities, all designed to help develop their business skills and give them valuable insights into the world of work. Within this year’s competition, students were tasked with designing a campaign to support the Special Olympics GB National Games, and we’ve been deeply impressed by the depth of creative talent and business acumen displayed.
As well as maintaining strong networks with local schools and colleges, it is also important for businesses to be connecting and collaborating with other industry bodies and organisations who share a common desire to empower and support local talent. For instance, at CCEP we work with organisations such as MyKindaFuture, which helps employers reach and recruit future talent from schools, colleges and universities. It is great for us as a business to work alongside an organisation that shares our passion for developing young professionals, and helps us to engage with learners early on with regards to the different opportunities and roles available within the manufacturing sector.
Our work with MyKindaFuture supports both our field sales and supply chain apprenticeship schemes. 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. This mentoring is something that we as a business believe should be incorporated into each stage of the process, from recruitment to employment, as a way of providing all participants with the tools they will need as they approach the world of work.
We look forward to welcoming our next intake of apprentices over the coming year and watching them grow and develop, as our other apprentices have done before them. Seeing this journey is very rewarding and highlights the importance of working collaboratively with our industry colleagues to nurture the talent of tomorrow, today.