Why apprenticeships matter to Kraft Foods

An apprenticeship with Kraft Foods is a coveted role, according to the company’s apprenticeship programme manager Alan Lewis.

As a leading food company in the UK and Ireland, we’re proud to be able to equip our young people with the skills they need for the future. We’ve been training apprentices since the 1900s and take great pride in the scheme that we offer. For an apprentice, it’s about far more than a training programme; it’s about the birth of a career, earning while learning and acquiring the skills they need for the rest of their working life.

For Kraft Foods, our apprenticeship programme is about attracting and developing new talent and it also helps us remain competitive. We do this not only through our apprentices but also our graduate recruitment scheme, work experience and internships, all of which encourage the growth of core skills and talent from an early age.

We will continue to invest in skills to support our manufacturing network, and that’s why, in 2011, we have taken on a further 20 apprentices in both engineering and confectionery across the UK and Ireland, at sites including Bournville, Banbury and Sheffield. In fact, by the end of 2011, nearly 2% of our direct manufacturing workforce will have been employed as apprentices within the UK and Ireland business.

Alan Lewis

Alan Lewis, head of Kraft Foods’ apprentice programme

An apprenticeship is a unique opportunity, combining on-the-job training with relevant studies to help kick start a young person’s career. Today’s apprentices are trained in and on the latest technology – some even end up programming a multi-million pound Kraft Foods plant!

We work closely with local colleges to train, monitor, support and develop each apprentice. The course our apprentices study for while working for Kraft Foods is designed to provide them with the skills necessary to operate plants and processes within a modern, high-volume environment. Within months of starting with us, the apprentices even get to lead on projects, which challenge them to work out best practices on a specific job. Our technology may have changed and advanced over the years, but our principles, pride and passion have not. An apprentice working in any team creates a fantastic level of interest – our engineers in particular have a variety of skills that they are keen to pass on to new apprentices.

The process is rewarding for everyone involved, including the mentors, line managers and other operators, as well as the apprentices themselves. Trainees are nurtured and developed to become experts in their role. Our commitment to taking on new apprentices every year reaps many benefits, such as investing in the future and having a team trained with the “Kraft Foods values”.

As an organisation, we have a great history of employing generations of families. Alex Fleming, one of our third year engineering apprentices in Bournville, joined the scheme to follow in the footsteps of his father, who works as a tradesman on the site. Adam Ravenscroft, another engineering apprentice who has recently joined the scheme, is also following in the footsteps of his father and his brother, a third-year apprentice. Both apprentices are really enjoying working in the close family community of Kraft Foods and shadowing the qualified technicians in their day-to-day roles. Once people have joined the scheme there are no limits as to where they could find themselves in the organisation. We don’t put a glass ceiling on their ambition.

Kraft apprentices

Apprenticeships bring additional benefits for the trainees themselves, including learning through employment and creating progression routes to higher education. Peter Hill, one of our engineering managers and a mentor on the apprenticeship programme, joined the company as an apprentice straight from school and now (at the age of 40) works as an engineering manager. He will tell you that apprentices haven’t really changed much over the years and what makes a good one is still the same – they are focused, practical and enthusiastic. In Marlbrook, Herefordshire, we have two engineers who have recently reached 30 years’ service who both started on the site as apprentices.

We have numerous tools and techniques to bring new talent into the business. Whether people join on an apprenticeship, internship or graduate programme we are dedicated to training and investing in youngsters to make them our leaders of the future.

Alan Lewis is head of engineering, Bournville, Kraft Foods UK & Ireland and is also head of Kraft Foods’ apprentice programme and ambassador for the West Midlands Apprentice Ambassador Network.

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