Travis Perkins is the biggest employer of apprentices in the sector, a process that has been building for roughly the last five years, according to Chief HR Officer Emma Rose, and the programme runs across the group brands, including the Travis Perkins business, BSS, Toolstation, Keyline and CCF.
“We currently have around 1,100 apprentices on around 45 different apprenticeship programmes. These span skills-based learning but also leadership skills. The programme goes across the sector, ranging from kitchen design and sales, through merchandising, first-line management, and people management right up to MBA level,” she says.
The Travis Perkins commitment to the concept goes beyond its own borders too, as the group is powering the Builders Merchants Federation’s apprenticeship programme, via LEAP (Learn as You Earn Apprenticeship Programme). They will be BMF Apprenticeships Plus branded, but they will be powered by Travis Perkins, who will be providing the content and the team that sits behind the delivery.
“Our purpose as a business is to help to build better communities and enrich lives,” Rose explains. “Enriching the next generation through work experience, skills building and career opportunities is an integrated part of this. Not just for our business but for the sector as a whole. We want to share the expertise that we’ve built. Other businesses may not have the scale or the resources that we do to deliver apprenticeships; we have already developed them and they’re up and running.”
We know that there will be a big gap in terms of resourcing the sector in the years to come. We all have a responsibility to help to drive the attractiveness of the sector, the quality of skills across the sector, because ultimately it will help us all .
As an industry, we’re acutely aware that we need to improve the diversity of our business to better reflect the wide-ranging communities we serve. The great thing with apprenticeships is that we are seeing a more diverse group of young people apply for our apprenticeships. On average we get 14% female applicants for non apprenticeships roles. This compares to 36% for apprenticeship roles, so they give us a really great opportunity to improve the gender balance of our pipeline.
Within the overall apprenticeship programme are a range of options, levels and durations. Levels, Two and Three last for around 12 to 18 months, Levels Four, Five and Six tend to be longer, more complex, and, in some cases, with the option to set individual time limits. Every apprentice has a personal coach who helps them through the learning, provides additional support. “In some cases, we are including things like basic English and maths to support the apprenticeship programmes as well as life skills in general. We have a big team of apprenticeship coaches, and they literally hold the hands of each one through their apprenticeship. We know that every single one of them will have a point during the programme where they just want to stop. It’s hard to study and work at the same time. We all understand that, so our coaches are there to help our apprentices manage that, working with them, their managers and teams and in branches to help and support them to get through it. It’s a big commitment actually, for our colleagues and for their managers. I visit branches most weeks and I would say 90% of the branches I visit have at least one apprentice.”
Recruitment of apprentices is via a variety of routes which Andy Rayner, the Group’s head of apprenticeships, is adding to all the time, Rose says. “We are looking more and more to fill our core vacancies with apprentices. We advertise on a lot of traditional job boards, but also use less traditional routes, such as social media and TikTok. We have also formed partnerships with organisations who have access to young people who might be looking for work. We recently hired our first apprentice through Centrepoint and we also have a good relationship with the Construction Youth Trust.” Travis Perkins group is also a big provider of roles on the Government’s Kickstart programme, which offers six-month job placements for young people aged 16 to 24 years old who are currently claiming Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment. Over 500 Kick-starters have been recruited so far, and the intention was always to permanently hire a significant number of them. So far, Rose says, over 200 of them have been hired into permanent roles.
“Hopefully, more of our Kickstarters will go on to apprenticeship schemes going forward.
Christie Rose, who is now Branch Assistant at Travis Perkins, first joined the company on the Kickstarter scheme, after Travis Perkins plc became one of the Government’s official Kickstart employers to provide work placements for young people at risk of unemployment during the pandemic.
She says: “I had just left school and had never heard of the Kickstart scheme before until one of my family members mentioned it to me. After looking more into it the placement at Travis Perkins caught my eye. Since I didn’t know what I wanted to do, the job was a way to help me gain work experience by using a range of different skills.
“The thought of starting my new, first proper job was daunting, but Paul, my coach, was always there when I needed help, and all the branch staff were very welcoming, so slowly I gained confidence, developed both existing ones and new skills.
“The Kickstart scheme helped me gain full time employment with Travis Perkins as an apprentice; something I would have never expected. I now have a job I enjoy and look forward to everyday, and without the Kickstart scheme, I would never have even thought about a job in construction, but I am really glad I did, and I am really excited to see what my future holds here at Travis Perkins!”