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Article citation: , (2012) "Warehouse apprenticeship scheme delivers for Smiths News", Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 44 Iss: 2, pp. -
A company that scans, packs and distributes 73 million newspapers and magazines every day needs warehouse staff who know what they are doing.
Smiths News, the UK’s largest wholesaler of magazines and newspapers, serves retailers across England and Wales from some 60 depots.
Under pressure to distribute millions of newspapers and magazines within a three-hour time frame every night, the company needs skilled staff who can manage the workload. However, some managers identified that when supervisory positions became available, there was often a shortage of people with the skills to do the job.
It became apparent to Smiths News that it needed an apprenticeship scheme to strengthen the flow of junior talent into the business.
The in-house initiative, which cost the company a total of £1,800 to implement, aimed to identify and develop 13 apprentices who had shown interest in becoming supervisors. The apprentices, who were taught and mentored by Smith News managers, followed a tailor-made apprenticeship program, which included a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) Level 2 in warehousing and storage.
In addition to the NVQ modules, the 18-month program included in-house training modules covering topics such as business communication, people management and business measures.
The company’s training and development manager, Gill Doolin, said: “The apprentices received on-the-job training in all warehouse departments. Not only did this provide them with all-round warehouse skills, it also helped them to understand how all the different teams need to work together to meet our customers’ needs.”
Apprentices were also given the chance to go on fact-finding visits to other Smiths News sites. This helped to raise their profile within the business and develop a better picture of how the organization functions as a whole.
Thanks to the skills matrix designed to identify the skills of each apprentice before and after the training, the company was able to track the development of each candidate.
Out of the 13 who began the course, 11 have achieved their apprenticeship award and all of them have now been promoted to supervisory roles. Six of the apprentices have supported a business-expansion project. “They would not have had the skills or confidence to take this on without going through the apprenticeship scheme,” said Gill Doolin.
Although the program has been completed, the apprentices will still be supported. Each of them is following a personal-development plan and will continue to be mentored by managers.
The Smiths News HR director, Glenn Leech, commented: “The scheme is vital in helping us to identify and nurture those talented individuals who are keen to develop their career at Smiths News. It has made a highly important contribution to our talent-management strategy, as we are now able to grow our future managers from all areas of our business.”
As a result of the success of the scheme, a regional winner in the National Training Awards, a further two apprenticeship cohorts have been recruited – one from among existing staff and one made up of external hires.
“We plan to enroll a new group of apprentices every year,” said Glenn Leech. “This will help to ensure that we have a larger group of talented people ready to support our business-growth plans by making sure that we are growing our future managers from within.”