How apprenticeship schemes can help address social justice

Premier Inn apprentice Stuart Mapplebeck

Premier Inn apprentice Stuart Mapplebeck

February 20th marks World Day for Social Justice. The UN says “We advance social justice when we remove barriers that people face because of gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture or disability.” Their concerns led the International Labour Organization to unanimously adopt the ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization.

In Europe the European Trade Union Confederation has spoken of its concerns concerned over increasing inequality. In this region the income of the 10% highest income recipients has grown much more rapidly than for the rest of the population over the past 25 years, and in 2014, the richest 1% of people in the world owned 48% of global wealth – and will own more than all the rest by 2016. Currently, in the EU at least 122 million people are at risk of poverty or social exclusion and 15 million people are in-work poverty.

This can be especially true for young people, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. In the UK companies are increasingly recognising the threat to their businesses from a lack of social mobility and skills gap leaving them with a shrinking pool of talent to recruit from. This is especially true in regions of greater socio-economic deprivation.

But hotel groups can change this trend for themselves and for the young people living near their hotels.

A classic example is Whitbread’s apprenticeship scheme. Here’s Stuart’s story.

In August 2012 Stuart was a demotivated and uninspired ‘NEET’. Through a chance visit to his local job centre he learned of a recruitment day for a new Premier Inn opening in Halifax North Yorkshire.

Stuart attended the day and within a month was told that he had secured the role of Reception Team Member. He spent the next two months in training and preparing for the new opening at Halifax.

Stuart soon realised that hospitality was the career for him. Within four months he had taken the new skills that he had learnt and found that he had a flare for the role and demonstrated a natural ability and passion for hospitality - he was promoted to Reception Team Leader after only a few months.

Stuart says: Since my journey began in 2012, I have changed as a person completely. If you ask any of my friends or family they would talk about a dramatically different person in stark contrast to who I was before joining Premier Inn. I know they would highlight how I have grown in confidence.

I have achieved some amazing personal goals. I won the ‘Outstanding Contribution to Reception’ award for the North-East at November 2013’s Proud event, Reception team member of the year for my cluster, completed the Bronze Shooting Stars Programme, the Level 2 Apprenticeship and now the pilot L4 apprenticeship. All in just over two years.

The achievement I am most proud of so far would have to be my apprenticeships, specifically being put forward for the Level 4 apprenticeship. I was eager to take the opportunity to gain another nationally recognised qualification, however I was apprehensive not knowing how difficult it would be. It is quite a stretch moving from level 2 to level 4. The support and feedback I have been given on the course has been really encouraging. It was also reassuring to know that my manager and CGM had the belief that I could achieve at this level and deliver such a high standard of work, well above my job role.

When I receive feedback on the work I have completed for the L4 Apprenticeship, it really shows me how far I have come. It has also provided me with the skills to support other team members going on the L2 apprenticeship journey; allowing me to utilise the skills and knowledge I have gained.

The L4 Apprenticeship for me is a fantastic opportunity. Not only am I working towards a great qualification in Hospitality Management, but I am now a part of creating the future for Whitbread’s apprenticeships.

In the last two years I have developed from an inexperienced team member to a confident individual ready to take the next step on my Premier Inn journey. I have met some brilliant people who have supported, motivated and encouraged me every step of the way.

Now I get the chance to return that encouragement to my team through coaching and empowerment, whilst building their confidence and engagement. What makes me thrive in my work environment is ensuring my team’s delivery of our purpose at each and every opportunity.

I will forever be grateful to Whitbread and the WISE team for giving me the opportunity to change my life. I was an extremely lost individual beforehand and I truly don’t know where I would be now without it. Not only have I been given the opportunity to come to work every day and do a job that I love, I now have a career within a company which has given me an opportunity to grow, develop and achieve my dreams - both professionally and personally. I have taken something from everyone who has helped me along the way and helped shape the person I am today.

WISE is Whitbread Investing in Skills and Employment. In 2012 the company secured ‘Employer Ownership’ funding of £4.3 million from the UK Government for their groundbreaking skills and employment programme.

The funding bolsters Whitbread’s own four-year, £15 million commitment to attract thousands of people to build careers and improve their skills and employment potential in the hospitality sector.

The WISE programme is focused on four key areas:

  1. Work Experience Placements and school visits - aimed at 11-18 year olds to give them opportunities to get to know more about the world of work.
  2. Employment Placements - aimed at people of all ages who are not in education, employment or training.
  3. Apprenticeships and functional skills - aimed at team members who want to gain nationally recognised qualifications.
  4. Supporting our small and medium sized supplier to invest in developing the skills of their own workforce.

By 2020 Whitbread aims to have delivered 7,500 Work Experience Placements, helping pupils and students aged 14-18 years, 6,500 structured Work Placements, supporting people not in education, employment or training to get into work and 6,000 Apprenticeships.

Schemes like this can help build healthier communities by reducing skills gaps and improving social justice through fair pay and equality of opportunity, but they also underpin a sound business model for companies like Whitbread who ensure a strong pipeline of talented, highly skilled, motivated and loyal employees.

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