Apprenticeship success for AS Watson learner  

A Superdrug apprentice has been celebrating this autumn after being recognised in the National Apprenticeship Awards 2015.

Karolina Apprenticeship AwardsKaroline Polniaszek, from Normanton, West Yorkshire, won the McDonald’s Award for Intermediate Apprentice of the Year (Yorkshire and Humber Region) for her development with the company, which works with Highfield Awarding Body for Compliance (HABC) for apprenticeships.

The award was announced on 8 October 2015 at a high profile awards ceremony, organised by the National Apprenticeship Service and hosted by the Northern Ballet, Leeds.

Over the last two years, the Superdrug and Savers Apprenticeship programme – part of AS Watson – has recruited over 500 external apprentices, with 25 per cent of those achieving a qualification going on to be promoted into supervisory roles.  The programme, which is aimed at 16-18-year-olds interested in a career in UK retail, has seen 79 percent completing their training and being offered a permanent role within the company.

Karolina, who works on orders taken through the company’s website at the Northern Distribution Centre in Pontefract, will now progress through to the National Apprentice of the Year Awards Final being held in January next year.

Karolina Polniaszek, said, ‘I started the apprenticeship scheme last year.  My manager had encouraged me to apply after discussing my career within the business with her. The scheme has really made me step out of my comfort zone, improving my communication and presentation skills.  I’ve gained the confidence to put my ideas forward and really engage in teamwork and activities – a skill I was lacking before I started. I’d definitely recommend the scheme to others if they want to progress their skills and further their career!’

Jo Mackie, AS Watson HR Director, said, ‘We are incredibly proud of our Apprentices and are delighted that Karolina’s hard work has been rewarded with this recognition.  We are delighted that our Apprenticeships programme continues to strengthen and supports our younger colleagues with an entry into the retail industry, giving them opportunities to learn, grow and progress their careers’.

It is the latest success for AS Watson’s Apprenticeship programme which was recently recognised in The Sunday Telegraph as a top apprenticeship employer.

To find out more about AS Watson UK Apprenticeships visit or

Apprenticeships4England to warn of ‘decrease in apprenticeship opportunities’ at conference

Apprenticeships4EnglandOne of the UK’s leading voices on apprenticeships – Apprenticeships4England – will warn conference delegates this autumn that proposed funding reforms will lead to a decrease in apprenticeship opportunities.

Lindsay McCurdy, Chief Executive of Apprenticeships4England, will tell delegates at the HABC National Conference on 13 November 2014 at Old Trafford Stadium that over half of businesses believe they would be forced to decrease the number of apprenticeship places they offer when the funding reforms come into place in 2015/16.

The stark statistic comes from the Apprenticeship4England Impact Funding Reform Survey conducted earlier this year, which asked businesses and training providers for their views on the proposed changes.

Key findings from the report show that:

  • 51% of businesses respondents think their organisation will see a decrease in apprenticeship uptake;
  • Over half of training providers believe engagement with businesses will decrease by 50% or more;
  • That 42% of businesses plan to walk away from apprenticeships completely once the new funding reforms are implemented;
  • 84% of respondents believe that employers should be able to choose whether they handle funding or not; and
  • 88% of all respondents believe that apprenticeship opportunities will be reduced overall.

Lindsay McCurdy said, ‘What the proposals mean for the apprenticeship training sector, businesses and learners remain to be seen, but the statistics are there to see and reflect the deep concern across every part of the sector. I very much look forward to being part of the discussion at the HABC National Conference in November, and to hear if the opinions of the delegates match those of the Apprenticeship4England Impact survey’.

Jason Sprenger, HABC Chief Executive, said, ‘We have had 12 months of significant change in the apprenticeship sector, with more to come in 2015 and 2016. Out apprenticeship seminar at the HABC National Conference 2014 will bring clarity and insight to a range of issues from current and future apprenticeship developments, the constraints that providers find themselves facing, the support available and leadership training for deliverers – all within the context of the recent changes’.

As well as Lindsay McCurdy, the apprenticeship seminar at the HABC National Conference will feature speakers from the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), the UK Commission for Education and Skills (UKCES), the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP), One Stop Stores, Superdrug parent company AS Watson and Whistl (formerly TNT Post).

Notes to editors:
1. Highfield Awarding Body for Compliance (‘HABC’) is one of the UK’s leading Awarding Organisations for vocational qualifications.
2. The apprenticeship seminar is one of seven that make up the HABC National Conference covering a number of sectors including fire safety/health and safety, first aid, food safety, licensing, pool lifeguarding and security.
3. Cost per attendee is £135+VAT for HABC Approved Centres and £195+VAT for non-Centres, with discounts available for early and multiple bookings.

On the road with Highfield for National Apprenticeship Week

This March saw England’s employers and educators being challenged to get involved in apprenticeships as part of a week long effort to raise awareness of work-based learning.

HABC held free roadshows in five locations – London, Dudley, Doncaster, Manchester and Newcastle – as part of National Apprenticeship Week (3-7 March 2014), with delegates able to find out how apprenticeships can help to reduce recruitment costs, retain staff and improve performance whilst also showing a commitment to the local community and young people.

Ben Cressey, Director of Apprenticeships and WBL with delegates

It was a successful week overall, with a number of attendees at the events having since come back to us to say they are interested in offering apprentices and some now well on the path to doing just that.

Adam Glynn at the HABC apprenticeship roadshow in Dudley

Throughout the week HABC also played its part in the wider national campaign to raise awareness of apprenticeships across the board.  Firstly, we created this visual infographic to explain more about apprenticeships.

Then we filmed some video at AS Watson – parent company of Superdrug and Savers – to show how their apprenticeships are helping their staff and their business.

First up, Superdrug.

And not forgetting Savers…

We also had regular updates on our social media accounts using the hashtag #NAW2014 (and retweets by major partners such as the National Apprenticeship Service and the Skills Funding Agency).  From our Twitter timeline…

And we had quotes and endorsements from key clients, leaflets handed out at partner events, press coverage in trade and regional titles, and a new HABC blog (this one!).

So if you want know more about how we can help you with apprenticeships, just click here.

Delivering apprenticeships with Superdrug and Savers

Recently Superdrug and Savers – part of the AS Watson Group – made the switch to HABC for all their apprenticeship needs.  As part of National Apprenticeship Week 2014 (3-7 March 2014), we spoke to Operations Manager Sue Johnston, and two learners, about how apprenticeships were bring real benefits both to the business and to young people.

Sue Johnston, Operations Manager, Superdrug and Savers

Superdrug and Savers‘For us, one of the main benefits of Apprenticeships is the up-skilling of our workforce.  Apprenticeships bring in new people who, given the opportunity and the right training, can become a key element of our succession plan. Great people means great service, which in retail can also have a positive effect on sales and the profitability of the business.

Our Apprentices gain a qualification as well as some very valuable life skills such as increased confidence, better communication skills and self-belief, all of which are transferable into any other workplace or further education scheme.

To any business considering taking on apprentices, I would say ‘Go for it!’ You are giving a young person an opportunity to develop their skills, get on the career ladder and gain valuable experience. The business also benefits from this experience. It’s a win-win situation.

I would say for young people considering an Apprenticeship; choose carefully and ensure the area you want to go into is right for you.  If possible, volunteer somewhere first to be sure.  But once you have made your choice, you’ll get a qualification, valuable experience, a chance of a permanent job at the end – all whilst getting paid….Why wouldn’t you?

Eighty percent of our completed Apprenticeships have gained a permanent role within our business, but one of our great success stories is Christy.

Christy became an apprentice after completing a 6-week Retail Traineeship through the Job Centre voluntarily, as she was registered unemployed.  She showed such promise during those 6 weeks that we offered her the opportunity of doing an Apprenticeship.  Christy completed her qualification over 12 months and gained a permanent contract. She has recently been promoted from being a Sales Assistant to a Store Supervisor – and she is still only 18!

We chose to work with HABC for Apprenticeships because of their customer service, their family atmosphere and the fact that they include you as a provider, rather than dictate to you.  So far it’s been an excellent experience and there is always someone to answer your questions.  We meet regularly to discuss our future and where to want to develop, and HABC fully support us in this.’ 

Christy Horsley, Superdrug (Apprenticeship: Retail Skills)
‘I chose an apprenticeship over other courses as I prefer to learn practically.  Classrooms never suited my learning style and doing an apprenticeship meant I was getting experience, as well as a qualification.

So far the best part for me has been passing my tests.  I was very nervous but with the support from my assessor and my manager, I sailed through each one first time.  I’m already achieving my goal of getting a permanent position as I have now completed my apprenticeship.  I am now a store supervisor, but I want to continue learning do more so that one day I may be a store manager, helping other people become what they want to be.

To any other young people considering an apprenticeship, I would say this is the best thing I ever did.  If you like being hands-on then take the opportunity, work hard and you will achieve your goals.  I did!’

Gemma Southcoat, Superdrug (Apprenticeship: Retail Skills)
‘I wanted to have a career, not just a job, so I though an apprenticeship would be the best way to start that process as it could lead to so much more.

Working with the team and the customers has been the highlight for me.  I am a trainee sales assistant and work with the public every day in small town so you get to know the locals.  I love the customer service part of this role as I can help people, learn new skills and I am so much more confident talk to people now than I used to be. 

I hope that my apprenticeship will give me the opportunity to stay in retail with my current employer, but if not with them then certainly in the same area of the business.  I want to progress and work towards being a manager of my own store one day. 

My apprenticeship has helped me now only with the knowledge of retail but also in myself.  I was quite shy to begin with, and now I am far more confident and outgoing.’

To find out why more and more organisations are moving to HABC for apprenticeships, check out the AS Watson testimonial video on Highfield TV: