United Biscuits - Attracting talent and building entrepreneurs of the future case study

Date : 06 April 2011

United BiscuitsBusiness Sector

Food Manufacturing



Type of engagement

Providing Work Experience Placements to 16-19 year olds: Attracting talent and building entrepreneurs of the future.

UB has an established track record in supporting schools and colleges to provide opportunities for students to develop business related skills and gain an understanding of the world of work. Previous initiatives include the development of a national curriculum science module on biscuit design for use with primary school children through to supporting students from a local college in Hayes to undertake work based research in New Product Development.

This commitment has recently been tested in the “Dragon’s Den” of work experience placements with UB being approached by the National Enterprise Academy, the UK’s first non-profit educational institution founded by Peter Jones and dedicated to teaching enterprise and entrepreneurship with the aim to give their students a head star in their careers.

Purpose of employer engagement and activities

The challenge presented to UB was to offer high quality, 4-week work placements to students from the Academy that would provide opportunities to:

  • work on a real business project and to use and develop their business and enterprise skills ; and
  • to identify and provide real business solutions to real business issues.

United Biscuits viewed this as a real opportunity to show their commitment to the aims of the Employability Pledge by getting involved with the NEA not only to provide work placements but at the same time promote the food and grocery industry to these students as a career choice.

Our first work placement student joined us on 28th February 2011 and will spend 4 weeks working in the UB Recruitment team on a project to develop information leaflets, in line with the UB employer brand, that can be used:

  • as part of the corporate recruitment process; and
  • to explain details about our manufacturing sites to potential employees.

Alongside this the student has been getting involved in supporting the 2011 graduate recruitment campaign so that she can increase her knowledge and understanding of this type of activity and see it working in practice.

  Kirstie Jackson says her placement has provided a huge insight into what it is like to work within such a large corporate organisationHere is what our Student Kirstie Jackson has said about her placement with UB ;

"I am currently a student at the National Enterprise Academy, a business academy founded by Peter Jones CBE, entrepreneur and star on Dragons Den. Peter Jones’s vision was to shift the boardroom into the classroom, equipping future entrepreneurs with the skills and confidence to aim higher. To achieve his vision, in September 2009 the National Enterprise Academy was launched as the UK’s first non-profit educational institution, dedicated to teaching enterprise and entrepreneurship. The NEA is a pioneer, giving students such as myself a head start in a career.

The NEA course covers a 12 month period. Within this time I am expected to build knowledge and understanding in all areas of business, through lessons and interactive sessions. Students interact with both local and national entrepreneurs through various business challenges. We also have to form our very own micro business and participate in a four week work experience placement.

I have been extremely fortunate to have been given the opportunity to work within United Biscuits on my four week work placement. In my time at UB I have been working closely with the HR team and have been able to complete a range of different tasks. My main challenge was to create a leaflet insert aimed at new recruits for various UB manufacturing sites. I have also gained experience in the Graduate Recruitment process. The team I have been working alongside has been very supportive and has helped me gain an extensive understanding of working within an HR department.

I really enjoyed my placement at United Biscuits. It has been a huge insight into what it is like to work within such a large corporate organisation. I will carry forward all I have learnt within UB through the rest of my time at the NEA and also when building on my own career."

Results and Benefits

In addition to demonstrating its commitment to provide opportunities for students to gain first hand experience of the world of work UB have identified a number of additional benefits. These include:

  • broadening its recruitment pool by tapping into potential future recruits;
  • giving students exposure to life in the food manufacturing business and promoting it as a career of choice;
  • gaining fresh perspectives on current business operations and possible areas for improvement;
  • providing development opportunities for members of staff who are directly involved in coaching and mentoring students.

Key Success Factors

The success of this initiative has been dependant on a number of factors;

  1. Line management buy in to the initiative has been essential as has planning and preparation in advance of the placement beginning. The commitment of the line manager or supervisor of the work experience student is a key factor in ensuring a quality work experience and in determining how successful or not the placement will be. In this case they were really enthusiastic about the programme and made sure that the project the student wasn’t undertake represented a real business need, was something that was manageable and made sure that the business was expecting the student and that key stakeholders were committed to support the student in delivering the project within the timescales required.
  2. Full use being made of the business standard new starter induction process to ensure that the student was up to speed quickly on day 1. This included Business Induction, Site tours and Health and Safety induction as well as an IT induction so the student not only could use UB systems from day one but also had a thorough grasp of the organisational culture in which they would operate.
  3. Ensuring that the host team, in this case the HR team, fully understood their roles and responsibilities and where briefed in advance as to what to expect in relation to the aims and objectives of the placement and the support that they might need to offer. Everyone involved needed to understand that the student was not there to “photocopy, do the filing or make sups of tea”!

As a result of this initial trial, we will be starting discussions with the NEA as to how we can expand the initiative for the 2011/2012 academic year intake, and support a greater number of their students with this kind of project focused work experience.

Find out more

More information about the National Enterprise College can be found at www.thenea.org and further information about UB’s community programme and educational information can be found at www.unitedbiscuits.com