In September BRC Learning held the second in a series of roundtable events, entitled Making Apprenticeships Work for Retailers where we welcomed colleagues from Sainsbury’s, John Lewis Partnership, Spar, Company Shop, Joules, Pret A Manger and New Look.  Aleisha Riley from Joules and Daksha Stancilas from Pret A Manger shared their apprenticeship success stories.  Amongst the many useful tips and inspirational stories that were shared, perhaps the dominant theme to emerge was the importance of gaining buy in and support from internal stakeholders, in particular senior managers and line managers.  Here are the five top takeaways we discussed: 

1. Have a learning culture! 

Launching any new learning programme including apprenticeships is made far easier if there is already an organisational learning culture in place.  With a learning culture already in place you can focus on how apprenticeships can form a valid and valuable part of the people development strategy.  Most organisations will have made a commitment to learning so when you put forward your plan for a new apprenticeship programme make sure you tie it back to those commitments.

2. Understand the business priorities 

When you present your solution you need to show that you have fully understood what matters most to the business, the senior management team and line managers.  Take the time needed to understand the business priorities and how apprenticeships can contribute to the achievement of the company’s objectives.  Remember to consult with both senior managers and departmental or line managers to gather the full picture. 

3. Create a business case 

It doesn’t need to be long and complicated but showing that you have thought through the key questions and are able to summarise your recommendations in a short document or presentation will go a long way to getting buy in.  And by including a vision for how apprenticeships could help the business over 3-5 years you will inspire and motivate your audience. Remember that many people have preconceptions about apprenticeships so this is your opportunity to bust some myths and sell apprenticeships!

4. Use simple and transparent processes 

Whether you are hand picking your apprentices or running an open selection process make sure you have the support of the line managers and senior managers.  Be clear on the selection criteria but also consult widely to understand the learning needs and run briefings sessions to keep everyone informed and build momentum.  You’ll usually be oversubscribed so it’s really important to think carefully how you will deal with any applicants who aren’t successful. 

5. Market your apprenticeships 

Apprenticeships represent a big commitment both for the business and the individual participants so make sure they are given the profile and status they deserve.  If you’ve aligned apprenticeships to your talent strategy make sure that’s explicit and focus your messaging on the the long term benefits of apprenticeships to the individuals and the business.  And of course, when your programme is up and running make sure you share the success stories to continue to build momentum and a network of advocates. 

These are just some of the insights that come of the roundtable event.  To register your interest in future events email

Working together with our hand-picked partners, BRC Learning offers high quality leadership and management apprenticeship tailored specifically for the retail industry.

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By the BRC Learning Team