Connecting Professionals: How to develop a truly successful apprenticeship programme

Written by Investors in People

In this article..

Developing a successful apprenticeship programme is a bit like an apprenticeship – you’re on a learning journey. Finding out how others do things and sharing your own experience is invaluable. That’s why we were delighted to see so many attendees at our spring networking event ‘Connecting Professionals from the World of Apprenticeships’ at the Waldorf Hilton earlier this month. 

Over a hundred people, from a wide variety of industries – from Energy to Social Care, Technology to Retail – together in one room, keen to learn from each other and our speakers, Zii Nithiyananthan from Burberry and Anne Ashworth from Pearson. 

There was, as our CEO Paul Devoy put it, a real “buzz” in the air. People were swapping ideas, sharing best practice – and all over a delicious lunch. 

If you couldn’t make it, however, fear not. At Investors In People we’re always looking for ways to #MakeWorkBetter, so we’ve summarised their three key takeaways for you here. We found what our speakers had to say inspiring. We hope you do too. 


Make sure that everyone, particularly the potential apprentice, understands what’s involved.

This was the big take-home piece of advice from Zii Nithiyananthan, Global Learning and Development Manager at the luxury fashion house, Burberry.

Burberry employs about two thousand people and currently has about thirty different apprenticeship programmes. Zii’s advice was the result of an internal drive she’s led to address what’s often said to be the biggest problem with apprenticeship schemes: the drop-out rate. 

As she told our audience, you need to:

“be really transparent…joining an apprenticeship is super simple; completing it over eighteen or twenty-four months can get quite difficult and complicated.” 

Burberry has recently made a number of changes to the way it communicates with staff about their scheme and it’s had a significant impact.

A year ago, 50% of the company’s apprentices dropped out. In the last six months there were just two, who left not because of problems with the scheme, but because they got jobs elsewhere.

So, how did they do it?

  • They introduced a new online resource which became the single source of information about their apprenticeship schemes. Now, anyone interested or involved in a scheme only has to go to their ‘Apprenticeships at Burberry’ SharePoint to find what they need or to get advice. In the last year it’s been viewed 350,000 times.
  • They created a catalogue of the different apprenticeships available. Here, every scheme is set out in detail, with everything from the line manager’s and the learner’s responsibilities, to the duration and type of certificate an apprentice will get at the end.
  • There are flyers for each programme. This means potential apprentices can see, at a glance, what modules are covered over the length of a programme.
Zii Nithiyananthan, Anne Ashworth and Paul Devoy

Zii Nithiyananthan from Burberry (l), Investors in People CEO, Paul Devoy (c), and Anne Ashworth from Pearson (r) at the Waldorf Hilton, London.


It’s important to celebrate success.

Both our speakers emphasised how important it was to shout about your successes. Zii gave some great examples of how they use National Apprenticeship Week, which is normally held in February, to do this: 

“Over the week we offered functional ‘lunch and learns,’ we encouraged local get togethers in person and we had senior stakeholders do video recordings talking about apprenticeships and their sponsorship. We also built a testimonial hub of videos and feedback which currently sit on our SharePoint. So, at any time, if you’re a learner and you’re just thinking about it, you can find everything you’re looking for.” 

While Anne Ashworth, our second key speaker and the Head of Employee Apprenticeships at the education publishing and assessment company Pearson, explained how they do it in their workplace: 

“We like to put our apprentices forward for recognition. Several of our apprentices have won regional awards, some have won professional awards…and every year we hold a celebration event. We recently brought our T-level students on placement with us into the fold so they’re also now part of our celebration.”


Put the learner at the centre of everything you do. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly for an education company, this was what Anne said was fundamental to their success.

Pearson has approximately 110 apprenticeships running at any point in the year. It’s also just been awarded our Platinum award for its We Invest in Apprentices programme – something Anne says she’s “utterly chuffed” about (and we couldn’t agree more).

According to Anne, their philosophy of always putting the learner first has:

“led to their apprentices continuing and progressing and being promoted. The business has flourished. Managers and team members have thrived and, ultimately, our customers are reaping the rewards as well.”

Here’s how she and her team worked towards getting Platinum status:

  • They offered an attractive employment package for apprentices from the start. When they set out, Pearson’s target was to have apprentices make up five percent of their UK workforce. Permanent contracts and competitive salaries were one of the key things which ensured apprentices were well integrated.
  • Their apprenticeship programme aligned with Pearson’s systems and processes. Bringing together an expert in-house team, they made sure the roll out would be smooth, knowing this would prove crucial to internal buy in.
  • Communication was – and still is – key. Their apprenticeships team found sponsors at the most senior level in the business and, with their support, cascaded information about what an apprenticeship was, its benefits to individuals, teams and the business overall. Not only did this raise the programme’s profile, it also got them buy-in at all levels in the business.
  • They developed a robust procurement process. This enabled them to confidently secure financially-sound, reputable education providers.
  • Managers and learners played a pivotal role in the programme’s evolution. A strategy was created which gave apprentices different ways to voice their insights.
  • Every apprentice was given a mentor. Everyone, from the most junior to the most senior apprentices, gets this support, which at senior level can mean being mentored by a Director from their international business. As Anne explained, it “really does expose them to all sorts of exciting initiatives and different teams at different levels.”
  • Performance data is used not only to prove the scheme’s worth but to tackle any potential issues. This, in tandem with regular team meetings and telephone calls, enables them to act swiftly.


In summary, to make your apprenticeship scheme a success our speakers agreed on three things:

  1. Be clear in your communication: make sure everyone knows exactly what’s involved.
  2. Celebrate success: it’s not only a great boost for the apprentices themselves, it shows everyone in the organisation what a great thing it is to be part of.
  3. Put the apprentice’s experience at the centre of everything you do: if they’re successful your scheme will be too.

And, our We Invest in Apprentices Framework can always be used as a guide to help you on your way. It covers everything you need to make sure your scheme delivers a fantastic experience for everyone involved. Together, we can #MakeWorkBetter. 

For a final word on ‘Connecting Professionals from the World of Apprenticeships,’ it’s over to our CEO, Paul Devoy: 

“The real value of these events often comes not just from the conversations on the day, but the conversations which come after. We’ve already had one big company tell us they want to help small companies better utilise the government’s levy and it’s so good to see that those conversations are sparking new initiatives and actions which will go on to promote apprenticeships even further.” 

About Investors in People

Investors in People have been working with a huge range of big and small organisations from Public Sectors, SMEs, Charities, PLCs and anything in between for over 30 years. We have accredited more than 50,000 organisations and our  accreditation is recognised in 66 countries around the world, making it the global benchmark when it comes to people management. So we know we speak your language and can offer the specific kind of support and guidance your organisation needs.

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14th Nov 2023 | Old Billingsgate, London



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