Chocolate company tasting sweet success with apprenticeship programme

Posted on by karen.smith

OP Chocolates’ managing director Bruce Tomlinson – reaping benefits of apprenticeships.

OP Chocolates’ managing director Bruce Tomlinson – reaping benefits of apprenticeships.

Apprentices at OP Chocolates can be assured of sweet success after the company developed an apprenticeship programme with the objective of equipping its workforce with the skills needed to progress into senior roles in the future.

The company supplies mainly own label products to most major retailers in the UK and employs 350 people at its site in Merthyr Tydfil.

Working with learning provider Network Training Services, the company has been encouraging employees to return to education and develop themselves. Its frameworks are in Food Industry Skills at Levels 2 and 3.

Three years ago, it established an apprenticeship programme and now has 26 apprentices currently employed and has recruited 33 in that time.

Now the company has been shortlisted for the Large and Macro Employer of the Year Award at this year’s Apprenticeship Awards Cymru, which take place at Venue Cymru, Llandudno on October 20.

Jointly organised by the Welsh Government and the National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW), the prestigious awards celebrate the outstanding achievements of individuals, employers and learning providers who have excelled in contributing to the development of the Welsh Government’s Traineeships, Jobs Growth Wales and Apprenticeship programmes.

Funded by the Welsh Government with support from the European Social Fund, the awards are sponsored by Pearson PLC and supported by media partner, Media Wales.

“The business is looking to improve the skills and knowledge of its entire staff. Before putting the first group on to the apprenticeship programme, very few staff had formal qualifications,” said Deborah Shaughnessy, coaching and development manager.

“Now there are seven staff with formal qualifications on the Food Industry Skills Level 2 programme and, within the next few months, another 20 staff will have completed their Level 2 and 3 qualifications.”

Employees have learned about the engineering elements of the machinery and presented to the management team about projects they’ve been involved in.

Operators who had bought into the apprenticeship programme “have benefited from the new skills and experience,” she said.

One of the apprentices who is working on his Level 3 qualification is also considering university.

Wales’ Minister for Skills and Science Julie James congratulated OP Chocolates and the other 32 shortlisted award finalists. “We are proud to be delivering one of the most successful apprenticeship programmes in Europe with success rates in Wales remaining well above 80 per cent,” she said.

“Developing skilled people is vital for our economy. We have some truly exceptional apprentices here in Wales and the Apprenticeship Awards Cymru provide a perfect platform for us to celebrate their hard work and achievements. Equally important are the learning providers and employers who go the extra mile to support their apprentices.”

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