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The reality of getting an effective apprenticeship programme in place: Nando’s apprenticeship journey

With the levy having kicked in last April, our recent blog post highlighted how the timespan in which businesses have to spend the funds from their first month’s payment is quickly ticking away. Therefore if you're not already well into the planning and implementation stage, to avoid losing the funds in your apprenticeship levy account, you need to be making progress - and quickly.

We estimate it can take up to 17 months to get an effective apprenticeship programme up and running. And for many of the businesses we’ve been working with, what they tend to underestimate is the amount of time it will take for them to get to the launch stage.

We spoke to Carly Fish, skills and education lead at international casual dining restaurant chain, Nando’s, to find out more about their apprenticeship experience:

A background to apprenticeships in Nando’s

Nando’s had been running apprenticeships prior to the introduction of the apprenticeship levy and had an informal agreement with a large training provider. They didn’t take on external apprentices but apprenticeships were seen as an option for internal team members who wanted to progress, if their managers were supportive.

At the time, it wasn’t something they managed tightly. Their opinion was ‘that it was a great opportunity for team members to take responsibility for their own development, and it doesn’t require a huge amount of management or resource from us’.

When the levy came about, they  had actually been training about 2-300 apprentices a year for the past five years and felt the need to become closer to the programmes, making sure they were adding value to the learners, and aligned to the wider strategic plan.

Developing an apprenticeship strategy

As a family-run, purpose led business, Nando’s can make some bold decisions based on more than just the bottom line. They decided to take the time to make sure that apprenticeships were right for them and were really built into their strategy, rather than just feeling the need to ‘spend’ the levy. As a business, they saw the levy clearly as a significant cost, but also the opportunity to protect additional investment in training. They wanted to consider how they could use it in a way that really benefited their people, helping them grow and develop as individuals, but also supporting some of Nando’s wider business objectives.

First of all they needed to understand the levy – they did that with stakeholders from finance, operations, and their people team, looking to make sure they had a good understanding of what the opportunities and implications were. It was important to understand and a have a clear view of the nuances around the key commercial opportunities. They then put that to one side and said ‘okay, we know that, let’s forget about it, and let’s think about what’s really important for us as a business over the next five years.’

Nando’s felt that the overarching aim of apprenticeships fit really well with them – they loved the opportunity to provide education for people who for whatever reason don’t have the chance or inclination to go down the academic route.

An additional recruitment strand was also a consideration - the business is going to need about 50,000 new team members over the next five years, and   considering the  impact of Brexit in that regard.

They were also looking for solutions to help raise capability and facilitate progression within the business. They have a lot of Patrao’s  (general managers) that are looking for their next step, as well as lot of assistant managers that are bright and ready to progress, and providing transferable industry relevant skills could help accelerate these moves.

Maximising the return on investment

Nando’s were also conscious that in order to spend their levy, they’ll have to invest more money and resource in apprenticeships. Meeting the 20% off the job requirement, on top of already  significant existing training outside of the apprenticeship standard is a substantial cost for them as an employer, so part of the conversation was: “should we really do anything with this? We’ve got a really robust training plan at the moment, we’re really proud of our training, should we be really tweaking anything just so that we can be ‘spending’ this money that we know is already gone?”

They felt that any approach to  apprenticeships needed to have a positive impact on Nando’s people, a positive impact on the business or a positive impact on the society around them and, if it didn’t achieve those aims, then they shouldn’t be doing it at all.

Considering all of the above, they felt that apprenticeships do provide them with a good opportunity to continue to invest further in nationally recognised and transferrable training, developing those wanting to continue the journey in Nando’s as well as providing support to those who are looking to take a step elsewhere in their careers.  

The apprenticeship journey - beginning to end

As the plans for the levy became clearer, Nando’s felt it was a great opportunity to re look at their apprenticeship offering, linking it to the business ambition and purpose. At the beginning of 2017, they began to put actions in place to build a strategy and decide where they wanted to focus. They created a new role to look after apprenticeships in February 2017 and, after deciding they would learn best by trialling and testing, they set September 2017 as a broad milestone for when they wanted to begin piloting their first programme.

Whilst they anticipated this timescale would prove to be extremely challenging, they were keen to get going quickly. One benefit of getting on the apprenticeship journey quite late was that things were clearer from a policy and systems point of view than they would have been in the previous two years.

Their pilot ’Lifestarter’ apprenticeship programme – delivering the level 2 hospitality team member standard to new recruits was launched to the business, with recruitment starting in their target month of September 2017. The pilot highlighted the value in just getting started: “we learned much more by doing than we ever would have by simply planning”, allowing them a much clearer understanding of how to develop the rest of the programmes.

However, the radically shortened timeline did put the team at Nando’s and their training provider under pressure to build relationships and understand the other’s culture rapidly,  as well as make quick decisions and develop content at pace.  It was clear that going forward, they needed to not underestimate the length of time and level of resource needed to put the full programme of apprenticeships across the business in place.

They are looking to launch their level 3 hospitality supervisor programme in the Spring of 2018, and based on the learnings of this programme, consider including level 4 hospitality manager as part of the offering before the end of the year – nearly two years after defining their strategic approach.

Maximising the support available

Growing others is at the heart of Nando’s, and in order to provide the skills, knowledge and behaviour to meet the business needs for the future, they had just been through a learning and development restructure, rescoping and rewriting their career pathways over the previous year. After a year of change, they were busy creating content, and embedding the new career path.

They engaged with People 1st’s apprenticeship experts to help them develop their strategy, which they felt was an incredible support and helped to give them the confidence that they were focussing on the right things and not getting bogged down with what was being said in the media:

“It’s very complicated for a business that’s not worked with the government or familiar with the SFA and it’s not what we’re used to in our world.  At the same time, some of the training providers I’ve spoken to are now having to move into a really commercial space which is not something they’re used to either.”

People 1st also helped them recruit a provider and guided them through the tendering process. Using the gold standard scheme was key, as they felt it gave them assurance of quality and also helped speed up the process as they needed to find a provider fairly quickly to meet their September ambition.

For support in maximising your apprenticeship investment, get in touch with our experts today.

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"People 1st has been an incredible support. Apprenticeships can be very complicated for a business that hasn't worked with anything that's based in the government or skills funding agencies before - it's not what we're used to in our world. People 1st has guided us through the process and given us the confidence that we're focussing on the right things and not getting bogged down with what's being said in the media."

- Carly Fish, Skills and Education Lead, Nando's