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pladis and Unite advance UK government’s apprenticeship plan

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Gill Hyslop

By Gill Hyslop+


From left: Jonathan Simpson, HR business partner; Neil Smith, head of Manufacturing HR; and Matt Gould, Unite representative, pladis, with Rhys McCarthy, national officer, Unite. Pic: pladis
From left: Jonathan Simpson, HR business partner; Neil Smith, head of Manufacturing HR; and Matt Gould, Unite representative, pladis, with Rhys McCarthy, national officer, Unite. Pic: pladis

McVitie’s maker pladis and Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union, have signed an Engineering Apprenticeship Agreement to facilitate the recruitment of 50 apprentices into engineering roles at pladis by 2020.

The move is aligned to the UK government’s target to create three million apprenticeships by that date.

The five-year Engineering Technician Apprenticeship program will take place across pladis’ seven production facilities in the UK that produce recognized brands like Jacob’s Cream Crackers, McVitie’s Digestives and Jaffa Cakes.

Apprentices will be trained in the repair and maintenance of a wide range of packaging and processing equipment under the mentorship of pladis engineers and Unite members. 

Neil Smith, head of Manufacturing HR at pladis, said engineering apprentices are integral to the £2.2bn company’s continuing success.

The global biscuit and confectionery company, owned by Yildiz Holdings, has 34 factories in 13 countries and employs 26,000 people.

Uniting skills

“We are also proud of the network of mentors who will offer the insights, skills and support to help kick-start lifelong careers in this exciting industry,” Smith added.

The jointly negotiated Agreement recognises Unite’s experience on matters relating to apprentices.

According to Rhys McCarthy, national officer at Unite, it illustrates that Unite exists to protect the quality of apprenticeship training as well as protecting pay, terms and conditions of employment.

“We believe a better skilled – and paid – workforce is good for the workers, the businesses and the economy,” he said.

Pic: ©iStock/monkeybusinessimages

Have a chance

On April 6, the government’s apprenticeship levy came into effect, which enforces companies with a payroll of more than £3m to pay 0.5% of its total pay bill.

The apprenticeship programme - launched in 2010 - has already aided 2.9m new apprentices and is expected to enable the government to invest £2.5bn in apprenticeship training by 2020.

According to Robert Halfon, apprenticeships and skills minister, the levy will help ensure people of all ages and backgrounds have a chance to get on in life.

“Apprenticeships give young people, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, a ladder of ‎opportunity. The apprenticeship levy is absolutely crucial to this,” he said.

Companies that do not fall into that bracket – purportedly around 98% of those in England – will have 90% of apprenticeship training costs paid for by the state.

Additionally, extra support worth £2,000 per trainee will be available to training providers who take on 16 to 18-year-old apprentices.

However, the timing of the levy has met with mixed reactions from UK employers, many of whom have criticized the government for promulgating it amidst the economic uncertainty sparked by Brexit.

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