• Unilever is one of the world’s leading suppliers of fast moving consumer goods, specialising in food, refreshment, home care and personal care products
  • Each year Unilever invests around 1 billion euros in cutting edge research and development
  • Unilever currently employs 174,000 people in 100 countries worldwide
  • In 2013, Unilever was recognised as one of the top 100 apprenticeship employers in the UK

The challenge

“Unilever as an organisation is also benefitting from building a diverse workforce”

Unilever is committed to talent development and has a number of mechanisms and development frameworks in place from Apprenticeships to graduate, mid-level and leadership programmes. The organisation has grown its Apprenticeship scheme in recent years and now offers 15 Apprenticeship programmes with nearly 3% of the workforce beginning their Unilever careers as Apprentices, including the current Research and Development (R&D) Vice President – Ice Cream.

The Apprenticeships combine workplace learning and higher education and, two years ago, Unilever began the search for a higher education partner to deliver a Food Science and Technology Higher Apprenticeship to its R&D Apprentices.

At that time, higher level Apprenticeships were just being introduced and whilst vocational further education Apprenticeship models were in abundance, very few institutions were able to offer vocational higher level qualifications, particularly in specialist science subjects.

The solution

The School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences at Nottingham Trent University was in a unique position in that it already offered provision for both further and higher education study, with clear progression routes for students. This model allowed the University to quickly respond to the changing Apprenticeship framework and to tailor its food science and technology course accordingly.

The course suited Unilever’s requirements because the content and delivery was set up to accommodate part-time study from the start. This, in addition to the fact that students had access to the University’s facilities and expertise.

The current Apprentices have the added benefit of being able to develop their practical skills with experienced scientists back in the workplace, and have access to additional support with exams and coursework from Unilever scientists and business experts if needed.

Theresa Winters, Human Resources Business Partner at Unilever said of the course:

“The Apprenticeship process, particularly the regular shift from the workplace to the University learning environment, really engages employees. This is great news for our Apprentices who grow as individuals, but Unilever as an organisation is also benefitting from building a diverse workforce that will ensure our future leaders bring different skills, experiences and approaches to bear in shaping our organisation”.

Benefits and outcomes

  • Unilever Apprentices enjoy the best of both worlds – have the opportunity to put their University theory into practice immediately in the workplace, gain a higher level qualification and all the while, receive a regular income
  • Unilever benefits from engaged employees who appreciate the investment in their future
  • Nottingham Trent University and Unilever can continue to build on their shared interests and areas of expertise for the health and wellbeing of consumers worldwide.

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Related pages:

Nottingham Trent University
Food Economy Task Force