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For independent contract caterer Harrison Catering Services, its ‘food with thought’ proposition centres around the on-site preparation, cooking and serving of 100,000 top quality meals every day.
The company was founded on the belief that food made from healthier, fresh ingredients looks better, tastes better and is better. This belief is the basis of its offering, whether creating meals for primary, secondary and independent schools or corporate clients, and the key to delivering it is the company’s highly-trained catering teams.
As Harrison’s Learning & Development Manager Alex Taylor explains, a structured training programme across all levels of the national multi-site business has contributed significantly to better staff motivation, engagement, skills, capability and customer service, which in turn help Harrison provide the exceptional foodservice experience its clients and customers both expect and deserve.
Harrison’s partnership over the last four years with the specialist hospitality apprenticeship and training provider HIT Training has delivered some remarkable results. Working closely with HIT, Harrison has targeted employee learning very specifically, adding 12 apprenticeship frameworks to its learning portfolio and supporting more than 400 employees through its apprenticeship programmes. Year on year, Harrison see increased uptake in apprenticeships, and with achievement rates of 95% or more, Harrison is also able to demonstrate a strong correlation between qualification achievement and staff retention.
Encouraged also by the success of its Level 3 Diploma in Hospitality Supervision & Leadership, which has now been completed by over 60 of its managers, Harrison developed a bespoke Level 4 ‘Higher’ apprenticeship programme. As one of the most demanding hospitality courses available, it provides industry-relevant management training for those seeking to further their career in the sector and challenges the idea that apprenticeships are only available to teenagers and young people. This progressive approach is validated by Harrison’s current Level 4 cohort of 23 learners, whose ages range from the early 20s to over 40.
“We see progression to the Level 4 qualification as key to our strategy of providing development at all stages of an employee’s career with Harrison,” added Alex.
“By enhancing our management capability at this level, we’re able to equip our junior and middle managers with the necessary skills required for success in the competitive environment in which we work. This also ties into our commitment to be an employer of choice and helps to ensure that our people are fully engaged and motivated to consistently deliver an exceptional experience to our customers.”
Offering this qualification underlines Harrison’s ongoing commitment to the development of its employees and their careers. The company recruits and promotes from within wherever possible – a factor which helps to maintain consistently low levels of labour turnover of 11%.
For individuals, Alex believes it’s hugely beneficial to link elements of the company’s learning and development to a nationally-recognised qualification such as the Level 4.
“Apprenticeships allow us to give people a great opportunity to develop a career with us and learn a skill or trade that will accompany them throughout their career and life,” he says.
“Apprenticeships enhance people’s skills and capabilities, which deepen engagement and motivation, and give new members of the team the confidence to know that we genuinely care about them and their development,” he adds. “People are our biggest asset – and it’s our people who make the difference to the foodservice experience of our customers and clients.”
Harrison and HIT – a collaborative partnership
The benefits of working with HIT are many, says Harrison’s Alex Taylor.
“Our relationship has flourished over the past four years through the work we’ve done to integrate work-based qualifications as a core part of our learning and development provision. We work collaboratively in the design of our programmes and have a relationship based on openness, trust and appreciation of how we can both contribute to the development of our people.
“HIT provides excellent support and resource in the design and delivery of bespoke solutions, which helps us to implement our learning and talent development strategy effectively. They have enabled us to reach more of our staff with high quality, value-adding solutions and have really sought to understand our family business, values, culture and ethos.”