Center Parcs

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Working with People 1st’s apprenticeship consultants helped Center Parcs create strong, bespoke apprenticeship programmes that not only meet the new, employer-designed standards, but will maximise their apprenticeship levy investment and attract top talent.

The issue

Short-break holiday company Center Parcs operates five holiday villages throughout the UK, employing around 7,500 people. Its HR team felt that the approaching apprenticeship levy, along with government’s plans to reform apprenticeships and introduce employer-driven standards, created an opportunity to refresh and revitalise their existing apprenticeship programmes and develop a long-term strategy.

They wanted to build a programme that blended their existing management and development training and fit in with their development strategy. However, they also faced the challenge of getting buy-in from the board and addressing internal misconceptions about what an apprentice can offer.

The solution – apprenticeship consultancy

Center Parcs had previously been part of an apprenticeship taskforce led by People 1st, so was aware of our expertise in understanding the apprenticeship system and sought our help.

We took the team through a structured process to ‘map’ their current training programmes - including modules, workplace learning, on-the-job and off-the-job training - against the new visitor economy apprenticeship standards. We provided advice and guidance on how to fill the gaps, and helped them to design their new-look apprenticeship programme. Our consultancy director, Martine, also spent an hour of one-to-one time with the company’s CEO to explain the apprenticeship reforms and help him understand how Center Parcs could use them to its advantage.

Finally, we helped the Center Parcs team decide which elements of the programme would require support from an external training provider, and which parts they could deliver themselves, ensuring that they’ll get the best value from any contract with a provider.

The outcome

While their overall apprenticeship development process is still ongoing, the Center Parcs HR team now have a full programme mapped out for their hospitality supervisor, manager and chef roles, and they are ready to go out to tender with learning providers.

In particular, the new level 3 production chef programme has met a real business need, providing the skills for Center Parcs volume catering environment in a way that the previous professional cookery programme did not.

Critically, the HR team has now been able to present the board with a clear plan of what their apprenticeship programmes will look like and how they will use their levy funds, giving them the senior buy-in they needed to take their strategy forward.

Not only that, but the process helped to ‘de-mystify’ some of the misconceptions around the apprenticeship training. For example, the fact that the 20% off-the-job learning requirement doesn’t have to involve only classroom training, but can met by other activities like job-shadowing has helped dispel the myth that apprentices will have to spend excessive time out of the business.

Finally, much of the training Center Parcs has developed to fill the gaps for the apprenticeship standard can also be used to train other staff right across the business and the process has given them assurance that their training is meeting industry-recognised standards.

Center Parcs

What the client says:

“We came away from our first meeting with People 1st feeling really excited – it was the first time we felt that what we wanted to do with apprenticeships was achievable. They were so structured and organised, and the information they gave us really helped us to articulate what we were going to be doing with apprenticeships back to the senior leaders in our business.

“Our CEO’s time is very precious, but he said that the time Martine took to explain the apprenticeship reforms to him was the best hour he’d spent in ages.

“Now, we’ve got a really great programme that will be aspirational, attract the best talent and it should provide a really clear progression path for people either looking for their first steps into work or who want to progress into management and leadership.

“If you want to create an apprenticeship strategy for your organisation, I can’t recommend People 1st highly enough.” 

Margaret Mitchell, Head of HR, Center Parcs