How are Marstons taking on the 2017 Apprenticeships Levy?

We’ve had the opportunity this month to speak to Jo Bradford, Group Apprenticeship Manager at Marston’s and find out exactly how they have been able to utilise the current apprenticeship levy.

When asked on Marston’s stance on Apprenticeships & their use of the Levy Jo said “Apprentices are a key part of our People Strategy, apprentices bring a number of benefits to our business, through productivity gains, to increased employee retention. As a business you are believed to be more competitive when you train apprentices and consumers do favour using a company that takes on apprentices. Whilst the introduction of the apprenticeship levy is an unwelcome tax, we see it as a positive approach to addressing skills shortage issues we face. 18 months ago our apprenticeship offering was for pub teams only, the programmes were offered as a “nice to do” rather than being used as a strategic tool to address our recruitment, retention and succession challenges. Optimising our levy will mean doing more of what we already do, developing our people through apprenticeships. The levy and new apprenticeship standards have opened our eyes to the new apprenticeships emerging, historically our focus had been on our pub teams, however apprenticeships are now a key pillar in our people strategy and workforce planning across the whole Marston’s group.

We are extremely pleased with the progress made over the last year, we were an early adopter and one of the first large hospitality companies to introduce the new hospitality apprenticeship standards and we are now delivering eleven standards across the business. The standards, designed by employer’s, really do help us to develop our apprentices to be fully occupational competent and have raised the quality and reputation of apprenticeships. We are using apprenticeships to address our key business challenges; our focus on volume pub roles to increase retention & improve stability has seen a rise in new apprentices joining us, from an average of 17 per month to 67 per month. Apprentice retention is reassuringly high at 71%, compared to an industry turnover average of 100% plus. We have also focused on critical and hard to fill roles and have increased our chef apprentices by 20%, which in turn supports retention and succession.”

We were extremely interested in hearing how Marston’s had approached the Levy and if they had introduced any of their own initiatives as a result of this. Jo has this to say “A further focus, as a result of the apprenticeship reforms, is to attract and develop early talent and we have seen a 3% increase in 16-18 year olds, predominantly Apprentichef’d in our kitchens. This has encouraged us to start to participate in live apprenticeship shows to raise the profile of hospitality and the opportunities available. We are keen to engage with school students in Spring 2019, by offering work experience, to inspire young people into a fun working environment that isn’t the normal 9-5, it’s a place to make new friends and a land full of opportunities.

In addition to supporting our pubs with apprentices, we have recruited apprentices to our breweries. With an ageing workforce and hard to fill vacancies we introduced a four year multi-skilled Engineering apprenticeship for school leavers, who join us in July, following a nine month placement at a training academy, where they have been able to develop their foundational engineering skills and knowledge.

The Beer Quality Technician pipeline has driven us to co-chair, alongside Innserve, a new Employer Trailblazer Group, who will design a new Drinks Dispense Technician Apprenticeship Standard; supporting our need for an inclusive entry-level route into the Beer Quality Technician role. Our final main focus was to target top talent to build succession making Marston’s The Place to Be and we have gone from zero to forty support centre apprentices; including 18 higher level 5 apprentices studying Operations Management, which, in some cases, is supporting us to bridge the gap and build an internal pipeline for General Managers being Area Operations Manager ready.”

How can Marston’s ensure apprentices are supported and contribute to the success of Marstons? Jo said “We work in partnership with Lifetime Training to deliver our hospitality apprenticeships, Lifetime also work with all the large hospitality companies, Greene King, Mitchells & Butler, McDonalds, KFC, and Hilton etc. We have formed a Hospitality Steering Group, ‘Loving Hospitality’. The group will work towards changing the perception of Hospitality and make it a career destination of choice. In order to make apprenticeships as accessible as possible, we have a new refreshed microsite, that hosts an ‘All You Need to Know About Apprenticeships’ guide, short team member and General Manager engagement videos, which explain how to get involved and how to recruit an apprentice. This has been further supported by guides being sent to all our managed pubs and flyers sento all pub partners.

This year, the Marston’s Apprenticeship Awards 2018 formed a major part of how week celebrated the 11th National Apprenticeship Week 2018, from 5th to 9th March.  National Apprenticeship Week was all about celebrating our apprentices up and down the country, and sharing how our people, our teams and our business are all #betterbecause of apprenticeships. During the week we delivered some very special awards to some of our outstanding apprentices. They had no idea they’d won, so there were lots of cheers, huge beaming smiles and the odd tear or two, as teammates, families and customers gathered to share in their success. Every award presentation was streamed live on Marston’s Talent Academy Facebook page and posted on Linked In, with an impressive 12,000 views! The newly created Group Apprenticeship Manager role that was created 18 month’s ago has helped us to navigate the processes, understand the apprenticeships available and implement our new initiatives. Working in partnership with a number of specialist training providers has helped to make apprenticeships accessible and has supported us to ensure the apprentice and line manager are supported fully through the programme.”

So what did Jo have to say to businesses considering taking on an Apprentice for the first time? “For businesses thinking about taking on an apprentice for the first time, apprenticeships should be aligned to your people strategy and the biggest need of the business, the rest will follow, improved retention, increased team member confidence, progression and loyalty.”