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Property & Technical Services

A new era of technical apprenticeships at Sodexo

As we celebrate National Apprenticeship Week (8 to 14 February 2021), Sue Davison, head of apprenticeships at Sodexo, explains why she strongly believes that apprenticeships are the best way of addressing the looming skills gaps in the area of engineering.

Picture of Sue DavisonBy 2026, nearly 20% of the UK’s engineering workforce will have retired or be close to retiring*, presenting our industry with a significant challenge.

Technical apprenticeships are not new to Sodexo. In 2013, when I first became responsible for the organisation’s apprenticeship programme, we had learners working towards a national qualification in electrical and mechanical disciplines. We struggled with consistency and quality of the learners’ experience and we recognised we needed to do more and that we needed to act now. 

At the end of 2020, we launched our technical academy, designed specifically to attract, retain and develop our current and potential new engineers. 

While Sodexo’s dedicated technical programme is attracting new talent, we are particularly keen to attract women into what has historically been a male dominated industry.

People sometimes have preconceived ideas about these types of roles, so I really want to shout it from the roof tops that engineering roles are perfect for anyone that has a great eye for detail, enjoys problem solving and has a curiosity about how things work.

To get where we are today has not been an easy or straightforward path. The government apprenticeship reforms in 2017 highlighted that to be successful in the delivery of any apprenticeship programme, we would have to meet key objectives around consistency, quality and the delivery of the best learner experience. 

As we set out to procure those great programmes, we kept hitting obstacles with the technical programme and struggled to find a single national partner that could support delivery of our objectives.

In 2019 we were introduced to the COLLAB Group, a managing agent for a collaboration of colleges that looked like the answer to our problem. Through them we formed an internal working group with subject matter experts from all segments and started to define what the technical programme would look like and how it would meet the goals set by the hiring managers.

A key element in the development of the programme was recognising that future engineers needed to be multi-disciplined and would require a greater understanding of the relationship between a company and its clients. In addition to a qualification, we wanted to focus in on the behaviours and knowledge of engineering roles to grow confidence and competency in our apprentices. 

Engineers are so important to our future client offer. There will always be a need for engineers to perform critical roles from keeping the lights working to ensuring the workplace environment is maintained and remains in a good state of repair. The role of the engineer is now more critical than ever as we look forward to the time when we can welcome our people back to the workplace and give our client’s the confidence that their employees have a safe place to work.

The technical academy is a very important asset to Sodexo and all our apprentices will be mentored and developed to be the best in class. It’s vital that all our colleagues have the skills, knowledge and understand the behaviours needed to allow them to be the best that they can be at work.

For me, working in early careers is a real passion and I am proud of the work we are doing at Sodexo. Apprentices bring real value to our organisation and me and my team will continue to do our best to support and expand these essential programs.

Hear from one of our apprentices who is on the technical apprenticeship programme.

*Source: Engineering Construction Industry Training Board

February 10, 2021

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