Author: Beth Whittaker, Chief Human Resources Officer, Veolia UK and Ireland.
Never before has the environment been such a hot topic. Driven by generation Z, the concern about the care of our planet's health is gaining traction in a big way! This generation won’t sit by and let their natural environment be destroyed, they want change and they want it now to ensure a sustainable future.
We live in a world that is facing major challenges to find solutions to stop pollution, save our precious natural resources and protect our biodiversity, that is our mission at Veolia. Our purpose is Ecological Transformation: helping us achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.
Our 14,000 employees across the UK and Ireland are committed to developing and delivering cutting edge environmental solutions for the future. Examples such as recycling oil rigs back into valuable metals, generating renewable energy from biofuels and turning old milk bottles back into new bottles on your supermarket shelves is just the tip of the iceberg.
As the world around us changes rapidly I believe we have to reshape our Early Careers offering to provide more opportunities for passionate and ambitious young people from a range of different social demographics.
It feels like only yesterday when I began my own apprenticeship, I took the decision not to go to university as I knew I was more adapted to learn on the job. And I’m not the only one who learns in this way. This is why I have such a personal passion around early careers.
Over the next few years at Veolia we are focussing on increasing our early careers intake. We truly understand the benefits that this will have on our workforce, succession planning, talent pipelines for the business-critical and hard to fill roles, including employee retention and engagement.
Graduates, apprentices and interns bring fresh ways and perspectives into the business, supporting our growth and innovation. It's a great way to introduce new employees to a long term, successful and structured career development scheme.
I believe apprentices bring new talent and expertise into the business to close the skills gaps or upskill our existing workforce. This is why we offer a wide range of different programmes, from Level 2 Intermediate Apprenticeships to Level 6 Degree Apprenticeships. Currently, over 70% of all our apprentices are in business-critical roles.
Molly Stone, who has been on the apprenticeship programme since February 2020, told me “I have gained a lot more confidence since working at Veolia - all due to my manager, team members and my apprenticeship course.”
Our apprenticeship programme is also on the rise, currently, we have 336 apprentices at Veolia. Over two-thirds are part of the internal employee upskilling programme, and 67 of them are new apprentices. And from September 2021, we shall be welcoming a further 36 to Veolia, once again the highest intake to date!
Each year we welcome a cohort of graduates in various fields across the business. Our two-year graduate programme is a mix of on-the-job and off-the-job training where they will encounter progressive learning and opportunities to familiarise themselves with Veolia. Offering a structured graduate programme, rather than employing a graduate in a job, will help to transition those with little work experience but who we see have great potential.
Our graduate recruitment programme is also gaining momentum. From 2019 - 2020 we welcomed 19 and have offered opportunities ranging from engineering to finance and IT to a further 21 graduates in 2021 - again the highest intake we have seen to date!
Alongside a positive upturn in apprentice and graduate programmes, we are also looking to increase our internship and work placement opportunities. This is an excellent way to assess a student's or graduate's capability while offering individuals a meaningful work experience that will increase their skills and employability.
We can offer short-term work placements and university-based learning that are unpaid and university summer placements and other ad-hoc work placements, which are paid. While internships are usually undertaken over the summer months or after graduation to gain experience in a particular field, work placements, also known as a year-in-industry or placement year, are taken as part of a degree. Students on a placement year are completing a module and receive academic credit for the year.
Kickstart is a fantastic opportunity for us to bring more young (aged 16-24) people into the organisation. It provides funding to employers to create new 6-month job placements for young people who are currently on Universal Credit and are at risk of long term unemployment.
Throughout the placement, both Veolia and our Kickstart partner will support the individuals in becoming ready for employment. We aim to successfully employ individuals long-term. With this in mind, we are offering full-time hours, topping up the 25 Government paid hours to 40 hours per week.
In addition to Kickstart, we are proud to have delivered two successful Movement to Work programmes. The Movement to Work Government-led scheme supports young people not currently in education, employment or training, into employment. We partnered with The Launch Group, a recruitment and training agency to deliver the three-week work placement programme which consists of a blended approach of work-based learning and hands-on experience.
We are continuously reviewing our rates of pay and benefits to ensure we offer competitive salaries plus focusing on the added extras. We work closely with our early careers colleagues to understand what is important to them to ensure we deliver the correct package. It is our hope that once they finish their scheme we can offer them a permanent role in the business and not lose the talent we have developed.
I believe supporting campaigns like One Million Chances is an excellent way to address and respond to the youth unemployment crisis. I am keen to work with like-minded and forward-thinking people to help young people find meaningful training that will provide them with much-needed life skills and prepare them for the future world of work. Long term, I want to help our people find sustainable opportunities and reach more individuals who are facing barriers to work.
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