Ready for roll-out

Since reviewing staff feedback on its Modern Apprenticeship/NVQ pilot programme,Costa Coffee finds itself in a position to evaluate and reflect on progress to date

Twelve months after an initial meeting with the head of learning and development at Costa Coffee, we’ve entered the final stages of the modern apprenticeship/NVQ pilot programme, writes Donna Rudolfo, business development director at Acorn Learning Solutions.

The first four learners – three store managers and one team leader – completed their NVQ level 2 at the start of December with the remainder to follow soon. Thanks to their invaluable feedback, we’re now in a position to honestly evaluate and reflect on our progress to date.

By launching the pilot of our ambitious training scheme across the South West region in July 2003 (later extended to the South East region), we believe we have put the wheels in motion to revolutionise training and development through NVQs in the hospitality and retail sector.

The idea was straight-forward: to enhance an existing learning and development strategy by adding vocational qualifications and provides the perfect formula to ensure highly-skilled managers, team leaders and team members who would be able to drive expansion forward.

In addition, Costa would be able to gauge whether the programme would fulfil the company’s team member promise ‘to develop people to their full potential, and reward excellence’ while at the same time raising the bar of operational excellence.

With 31 stores currently participating in the programme, total buy-in from each and every employee is needed before the decision is made to roll the programme out nationally. Also critical would be the necessary mentoring, support and assessment framework provided by Acorn Learning Solutions (ALS) and Costa to deliver the programme on a national basis.

At the end of last year, we undertook a learners’ survey across the South West and South East regions (see feedback boxes below) to determine the level of buy-in and support for the programme. This insight was used to perfect the work-based programme before its introduction across the business later this year.

Of the learners surveyed, 80 per cent said they were highly satisfied with the overall experience, while most felt the programme boosted their overall skills level.

When rating the level of support provided, no less than 90 per cent of the respondents said they received adequate support from ALS and Costa, and 70 per cent were visited by a training adviser in the last four weeks of the course.

During these visits, 60 per cent of the time was felt to be spent on observation, portfolio building, key skills or having a review, with the rest made up of assessment planning and tackling any training needs. In total, no less than a 100 per cent of the 16 to 24-year-olds said they used their key skills during every visit.

Overall, learners were very positive about the pilot programme, with almost every learner stating that the programme fulfilled the staff objectives. Respondents showed a high level of satisfaction with the time available to complete their portfolios, although some expressed difficulty with the wording of the assignments. In addition, some also felt the level might need to be adjusted for more senior staff members.

Since the survey was completed, 13 new learners have signed up for the programme, bringing the total in learning to 27. In preparation for the national rollout, learners’ suggestions have been incorporated into the programme and the amount of written work has been adjusted to allow learners to complete assignments in-store.

Staff feedback from the Costa stores

1. Rich treasures the experience

With seven years experience in the hospitality sector, Paul Rich, 25, store manager in Weston-Super-Mare, understands the need for ensuring there are skilled and qualified staff throughout the business. Jumping at the chance to test the pilot scheme’s suitability for the Weston-Super-Mare store, he enrolled for the programme from the outset. Now, 10 months on, he’s keen to enrol the rest of his seven-strong team.

“Having spent time in various roles within the hospitality sector, I was very excited at the prospect of joining Costa – a rapidly expanding company with good career prospects.

“Managing a smaller team meant that I would have more time to spend with my staff, making sure that they enjoy what they do and identifying any training and development needs.

“The Costa pilot reiterated the company’s commitment to staff development and training. By enrolling for the pilot, I was able to experience first hand what would be expected of my team members. This would then allow me to assist them with any queries in the future.

“The on-the-job training is a welcome incentive for team members to remain within the business, and I believe this will set Costa apart in the future while leading to higher retention levels throughout the business.”

Paul has now completed his NVQ, and another member of his team has since signed up to the programme.

2. Personal challenge for Hamil

Alison Hamil, 39, has spent three years at Costa Coffee in Taunton. She is now the store manager, with a total of 15 staff aged 18 to 30.

“Enrolling for the pilot was a personal challenge. Not only did I want to set an example for my own team, but I was keen to prove that everyone could benefit.”

“The NVQ provided me with in-depth knowledge and understanding of the company, various job descriptions within the store and the critical factors in ensuring a superior quality of service.” Alison plans to enrol for future training and development as part of the programme, and is looking forward to pursuing other interests, such as the buddy-manager system, where she will assist other managers with new store openings.

Since completing the programme, three more 16 to 24-year-olds have been signed up, bringing the current total of store trainees to five.

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