A year on from the successful launch of the Hilton Worldwide National Apprenticeship Academy in the UK, Ben Bengougam shares his top tips on how to set up a successful apprenticeship scheme within a large organisation.

Setting up a national apprenticeship programme in a business with 115 properties and five brands in the UK alone, that both had a positive impact on our business and helped young people take a successful step into a career in hospitality was no mean feat. However now over a year on, having received approximately 5,000 applications, we’ve met and exceeded our aims, successfully placing over 177 apprentices in 32 locations across the country.

Having reflected on these successes and as we continue to shape the programme moving forward, there are a number of key areas that I would encourage all HR professionals to keep in mind when considering the development of their own apprenticeship programme.

Set up a dedicated team and choose your service provider wisely

Your first step is putting in place a dedicated project team within your organisation who will be able to effectively provide strategic oversight of the programme. Our own team have worked tirelessly to ensure the programme’s success – not an easy task when recruiting for so many properties!

Next, ensure you partner with the right training provider. We worked closely with NAS (National Apprenticeship Service) who guided us through a nine-month recruitment process, and after several months, we’d narrowed it down to four and then to two suppliers.

We eventually chose Lifetime Training UK and have worked closely with them to create a bespoke programme that offers individuals on the job training from professionally qualified experts, on site mentors, development workshops and master classes.

It’s proven a very successful and collaborative relationship and demonstrates the importance of putting in the work initially to ensure you get a fit that’s right for your business from the outset.  

Learn from previous experiences and best practice examples

Hilton Worldwide is a global company with over 4,000 properties in 90 countries and territories and one of the key benefits of working within a large organization such as this is that you have the opportunity to gain so much insight from team members across the world. For example, in developing our UK apprenticeship programme we learnt from countries like Germany, where we have had a well-established and highly respected apprenticeship model for many years.

We also took notes from the success of our Chef Apprenticeship Academy, which has trained more than 60 apprentices since its inception in 2010. The programme has seen more than 95 percent of participants secure permanent employment and its popularity really encouraged enrollment into our extended 2012 scheme. On the back of this success, we were in a strong position to make our wider apprenticeship programme just as effective.

It’s also important to keep an eye out for best practice examples across other industries. Companies have so much to learn from each other in the area of apprenticeships, and NAS can offer opportunities to meet with like-minded HR professionals in different sectors, so you can help each other create the best schemes possible for your company. 

Don’t develop your programme in an HR silo and focus on the business need

Ensure you are working closely with all aspects of your company in order to meet the needs of the business. Investing in this scoping exercise in the first instance will pay dividends later in the process.

While designing and implementing the scheme, we were also very much led by business requirements. That included both the locations chosen to place apprentices, and the areas they focused on. We worked with our hotel operators to identify where there was a skills gap, and focused our apprenticeship recruitment on filling this need.

Each apprentice was individually matched to the hotel and role that we felt would best complement their skill-set, enhance their learning and benefit the hotel they were placed in. This direct matching can be a long process, but ultimately, it not only ensures that the scheme is truly valued across the business, it also allows the apprentices to meaningfully contribute to the success of the company.

Understand the broader picture

Linked to this focus on business need, it’s also important to ensure that you are aware of the broader industry picture when it comes to youth unemployment, which will help to effectively shape your apprenticeship programme.

Earlier this year at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Hilton Worldwide launched a white paper with the International Youth Foundation called Creating Opportunities for Youth in Hospitality. This discussed the hospitality sector’s extraordinary opportunity to develop a trained workforce while helping young people around the world obtain good jobs, begin careers, and improve prospects for themselves, their households, and their communities.

It identified that while the hospitality industry is already a major employer of young people, simply creating more jobs will not be enough to address youth unemployment if young people are not equipped with the range of skills needed to compete for and succeed in hospitality positions.

We believe by launching the Hilton Worldwide National Apprenticeship Academy we are going some way to overcoming these challenges, by offering young people the skills and training they need to succeed in the industry in the long-term.

The National Apprenticeship Academy also forms a key part of Hilton Worldwide’s Corporate Responsibility strategy, Travel with Purpose, one of the four pillars of which is creating opportunities, which is vital when youth unemployment is such a key issue of our times.

Summing up, while there’s no doubt it takes investment of time, energy and dedication to make an apprenticeship programme a success, it’s one that is well worth making. We have a tremendous opportunity to prevent a lost generation of young people by helping them acquire the life-skills and job training they need to be successful in the workplace and beyond. In the process, we will address critical staffing needs in our industries. It’s really a win-win situation.

Ben Bengougam, vice president, Human Resources, Europe, Middle East and Africa for Hilton Worldwide.