Iceland: the first ‘Gold' status investor of apprenticeships

The UK’s leading frozen food retailer partnered up with Lifetime to grow and develop leadership talent across its stores. Find out how we’ve been future-proofing its talent strategy with retail apprenticeships.

Unlocking Iceland's workforce potential

New to the world of apprenticeships and with an objective to strategically embrace the apprenticeship levy, Iceland looked for a training provider that could develop its store leaders of the future.

Iceland teamed up with Lifetime in 2017 with a ‘think apprentice-first’ approach to investing in talent, focussing on both the learner experience and maximising long-term business impact from the very start.

Since then, we’ve established a robust partnership that’s defined and developed a tailored apprenticeship programme at Iceland. It's tactically aligned to its training strategy, aims and culture – and works hard to drive talent throughout the business.

850+
employees currently working towards an apprenticeship (March 2022)
82%
of employees who achieved their apprenticeship have been retained after one year
54%
of Iceland’s 900+ stores have an employee who is working towards or who has completed their apprenticeship

A gold standard strategy for development

Iceland’s provision has continued to evolve during its partnership with Lifetime. The programme was first rolled out for Supervisors and Store Managers with Leadership and Management apprenticeships, with over 300 apprentices signing up in its first year.

Following its initial success, the programme continued to expand over the last six years to meet Iceland’s business needs and upskill more of its people, with the introduction of Level 2 apprenticeships aimed at Frontline Retail Colleagues in 2019.

It’s how we’ve grown the provision to create clear progression routes at Iceland. Apprenticeships are now at the forefront of growing and retaining a robust talent pool, with 54% of Iceland’s 900+ stores having an employee who is working towards or who has completed their training.

And as a result of key business decisions that centre around apprenticeships, Iceland has recently been accredited 'Gold' status investor of apprenticeships by Investors in People (and the first employer to achieve this too).

RateMyApprenticeship also awarded Iceland and Lifetime Best Training Provider and Employer Partnership in 2020. The partnership’s winning streak continued last year, achieving the Best Development Programme 2021.

  • ‘Gold’ status for investors in apprenticeships
  • RateMyApprenticeship Best Training Provider and Employer Partnership
  • RateMyApprenticeship Best Development Programme
  • AAC Apprenticeships Award: Outstanding contribution to the development of apprenticeships (employer) (Received Highly Commended award)
  • AAC Apprenticeships Award: Apprentice Employer of the Year 2022 (Received Highly Commended award)

Retaining their people: 82% of apprentices stay at Iceland

Constant collaboration, workshop sessions, strategic planning and innovative solutions have all been essential in developing a clear route for progression through apprenticeships, with over 400 achievers since 2018.

Learner journeys have been adapted to meet Iceland’s career pathways and internal strategy, with programmes that upskill diverse job roles, from Frontline Colleagues to Supervisors, Senior Supervisors to Store Managers.

It’s resulted in challenging, but effective training programmes, that support a bespoke approach to 20% off-the job training and increase employee retention.

Latest stats show that 82% of Iceland’s apprentices have been retained one year after completing their apprenticeship. There’s also a 17.8 percentage point lower turnover rate for Frontline Colleagues working towards an apprenticeship, compared to the wider Iceland turnover rate for Frontline Colleagues.

Lower turnover rates have created cost savings for Iceland too. There has been an estimated saving of over £13K on re-hiring every 12 months for Frontline Colleagues working towards an apprenticeship.

"Putting our people first really matters to us. Having clearly defined talent paths, where our apprenticeship programmes are an integral part of what we do, gives our colleagues the opportunity to develop the skills they need to do the job well – and opens doors to a successful management career with us.

Our partnership with Lifetime and our combined focus makes this a reality and it's something that we're extremely proud of. We continue to work collaboratively with Lifetime to make sure that the apprenticeship programmes link seamlessly with the reality of a retail environment, helping our colleagues get the very best from their apprenticeship."

Laura Forrest, Training and Development Manager at Iceland

Creating a personalised strategy for development

Iceland's apprenticeship programme is designed with fully integrated career journeys for its people. It’s what grows Iceland’s internal talent pool, with Level 2 and 3 qualifications accessible to all to develop and support more learners than ever before. Any colleague looking to become a Store Manager attends a development day, which unlocks a personalised route for career progression to cultivate key leadership skills with Level 3 and 4 programmes.

A partnership that’s culturally aligned

There has always been a deliberate focus on cultural alignment, where we've worked as a partnership to adapt delivery methods to reflect Iceland's vision for nurturing talent.

To make it happen, Lifetime has a national team of dedicated Retail Coaches within Iceland. They attend the ‘Heart of Iceland’, a cultural alignment event run by Iceland’s Senior Leadership team to embed Iceland’s culture and people priorities, while “back to floor” activities in stores increase understanding of Iceland’s operational activities.

It’s how we ensure our programmes are constantly evolving to meet Iceland’s talent strategy and business needs – and create consistency across our retail apprenticeships on a national scale.

67%
said the apprenticeship helped their career
24%
of achievers have been promoted
72%
said they’re more productive
90%
said they now perform better in their role
80%
said the apprenticeship was relevant to their role
42%
of apprentices are living in the top 20% IMD

Building on apprenticeship success at Iceland

Looking to the future, Iceland will build on its commitment to investing in talent. It will continue to evolve its gold standard apprenticeship offering, with new ambitions for its award-winning provision.

It plans to develop a succession of internal talent, encouraging employees that are already apprenticeship achievers to progress to the next level, as well as working closely with Lifetime’s recruitment teams to attract fresh external talent.

There will be a focus on levelling up Store Manager training, with training designed to increase leadership skills, knowledge and behaviours to drive talent across Iceland’s stores. We look forward to what the future holds at Iceland – and where it will take its programme next.

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Our partnership with Lifetime and our combined focus is something that we're extremely proud of. We continue to work collaboratively to make sure that the apprenticeship programmes link seamlessly with the reality of a retail environment, helping our colleagues get the very best from their apprenticeship."

Laura Forrest, Training and Development Manager at Iceland