Recruiting young talent: changing perceptions with apprenticeships

Leading hospitality employer Mitchells & Butlers uses apprenticeships to recruit young talent. Discover how a robust recruitment strategy has created a company-wide culture shift around hiring 16-18 year old apprentices.

Myth busting at Mitchells & Butlers

M&B runs some of the UK’s best-loved restaurant and pub brands, including All Bar One, Miller & Carter, Harvester, Toby Carvery, Browns, Vintage Inns and Sizzling Pubs. It teamed up with Lifetime to drive its apprenticeship strategy, kickstarting a closely aligned collaboration that has successfully unlocked talent across the business.

apprentices currently on programme
achievers since the partnership began
of M&B's sites have an apprentice

It's been a partnership that's continuously evolved to drive M&B's ambitions for talent development. Which is exactly what happened in 2016, when the leading hospitality employer had a new, specific vision for its apprenticeship strategy.

The objective? Recruit younger talent, and make it happen across the business. But without having actively recruited 16-18 year old apprentices before, a company-wide culture shift was needed to make the new recruitment approach a success.

Some serious myth-busting had to happen around hiring entry-level apprentices, with a top-down, bottom-up approach that could change perceptions across all areas of the business.

And it’s worked. A close collaboration between M&B and Lifetime over the last six years has continued to shift the mindset toward recruiting young talent. 16-18 year old apprentices have become an invaluable talent pipeline and an essential part of M&B’s overarching training strategy. In the past year, M&B has seen over one thousand recruited starts, with just under half in this age group.

So, how did we work together to change the mindset – and develop an award-winning recruitment strategy while doing it?

Apprenticeship recruitment: the M&B way

To find the right people for the entry-level roles, Lifetime has a dedicated team that lives and breathes M&B recruitment. We act as a natural extension of their teams, attending culture days to embed the values of the diverse brands that make up M&B.

It’s a true partnership, where managers work directly with Lifetime recruitment on a one-on-one basis to understand M&B’s ways of working. Our teams are upskilled on what works best for the business they’re recruiting into, to attract the ideal candidates they’re looking for.

We're clued up on M&B’s internal training and development systems too. It means that from day one of onboarding, we can collaborate seamlessly, using the systems that M&B already know and use to increase engagement and link programmes to learning from the very start.

Developing a best practice approach to onboarding young talent

From initial outreach, all the way through to supporting the onboarding process, Lifetime and M&B collaborate at every level to develop a best practice approach to recruiting young apprentices.

Lifetime regularly meets managers across M&B’s brands to boost engagement around hiring young talent, breaking down barriers by showcasing the benefits that young apprentices bring (and crucially, how this type of training actually works in practice for businesses).

Our recruitment teams carry out a ‘good-to-go' process: a series of checkpoints for apprentices in the first weeks of onboarding. It’s an essential part of how we know young apprentices are getting the support they need, from receiving the right hours, to providing reassurance and helping them understand their role from day one of their apprenticeships.

An award-winning approach to apprenticeships

Targeting apprenticeships at 16-18 year olds is not only beneficial for young people starting out careers in hospitality.

Levelling up its approach to apprenticeship recruitment has positively impacted M&B as a business; young apprentices are engaged, they see hospitality as a long-term career and are likely to stay longer. 65% of achievers are still at M&B one year after completing their apprenticeship.

Because of its continued commitment to growing and evolving its apprenticeship offering, M&B has won a multitude of awards. Here are just some of them:

  • 10th in RateMyApprenticeship Top 100 (2021)
  • HR Excellence Awards Best Talent Management Programme (2020)
  • BII NITA Best Training Programme Managed over 50 (2020)
  • School Leavers Awards Best Recruitment Strategy (2020)
  • National Apprenticeship Awards Macro Employer of the year (2019)
  • CIPD Best L&D Initiative (2020)

Apprentice to manager: retaining and nurturing talent

Lifetime’s hospitality apprenticeships provide progressive career pathways at M&B. There are nine apprenticeship programmes available from Level 2 to 5, developing both Back of House and Front of House teams.

Whether it’s customer-facing staff working their way up to operations or management, entry-level kitchen team members developing into senior chef roles, M&B’s provision creates real routes for successful careers in hospitality – and shows its people exactly how to get there.

It’s also how M&B employee Joe Buck has become one of the top Kitchen Team Leaders at Toby Carvery. Joe started his journey at M&B when he was first recruited as a Lifetime apprentice and has been upskilling in different aspects of the business ever since.

He completed Hospitality Service and Team Leader Level 2 apprenticeships, levelling up his skillsets even further when he was promoted into a management role after achieving Level 3 Hospitality Supervisor.

Joe's been recognised for his accomplishments too. He was awarded ‘Rising Star’ at the National Apprenticeship Awards, proving that apprenticeships not only inspire, challenge and upskill, but also open exciting career opportunities in hospitality.

Raising the profile of careers in hospitality

M&B has significantly grown its social media presence, re-developing its entire strategy to support recruitment and connect with its youth audience. It’s how it drives engagement and starts conversations about entry-level roles in hospitality, making the partnership’s commitment to attracting key talent even stronger.

It’s also part of Lifetime's Loving Hospitality Group – a collaboration of several of our employer partners that continue to raise the profile of the hospitality sector, improve retention and combat its challenges. It’s one way that M&B puts the sector on the front foot, showcasing how rewarding a career in hospitality can be.

Young apprentices are the future at M&B. To continue building momentum around supporting young people into work, M&B will continue to leverage Lifetime’s recruitment service to attract its future talent – and then retain them with future-focussed career pathways.

We create training strategies that develop home-grown talent and unlock real routes for progression in hospitality.

Lifetime's hospitality programmes

Our partnership with Lifetime has been integral to developing a successful young talent recruitment strategy. Many of our apprentices have gone on to become managers and supervisors. This talent progression is exactly what we were after - and proves that apprenticeships are an incredibly effective way of developing and retaining talent at M&B.

Lauren Carroll, Vocational Learning Attraction Manager at Mitchells & Butlers

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