Polaris Learning and The Glenmorangie Company Working Together on Modern Apprenticeships

Why a Modern Apprenticeship Programme?

For The Glenmorangie Company, the decision to set up a Modern Apprenticeship programme at their Alba Production site was to ensure they had an effective succession plan in place for their bottling facility. A secondary goal was to enhance the learning culture among the team, and finally, but no less important, to encourage diversity within the team.

It is essential to have a team that understands the direction of the business, and which has the agility to make it happen. The company wanted people who could have more autonomy, work more self-sufficiently, take ownership of solving problems and have the passion to drive their careers within the industry. They realised the Modern Apprenticeship programme could be designed to meet all of those needs.

Kerryanne Joyce, Development Specialist at The Glenmorangie Company, explained:

“The team are constantly evaluating the learning outcomes to ensure we deliver a truly great experience for our apprentices that supports our vision and values.”  

How Did the Journey Begin?

Initially, in 2017, a specialist production team was created to shape and drive the programme, making sure that they had the latest thinking in recruitment and interview techniques, as well as a shared understanding of how to attract, communicate, support and retain team members with a focus on growth mindsets.  The Team completed the Leadership Excellence Programme with Polaris Learning, endorsed by the ILM (a City & Guilds Business) to ensure they were aligned to the softer skills elements of the Modern Apprenticeship qualification. The team then created a bespoke induction to support the SVQ learning programme. The programme focuses on knowledge sharing of internal competencies, delivered by internal subject matter experts from across the business.

Working in Partnership with Polaris Learning

I asked Kerryanne about the partnership with Polaris Learning which has been in place now for over 4 years:

“We chose Polaris Learning as they are one of the few training providers who offer training workshops as part of the overall Modern Apprenticeship qualification package.  We have found working with them to be a good collaborative experience.  As Polaris Learning have learned about our business, we have also learned about the standard SVQ units and worked together to adapt the learning materials to be more meaningful to our needs through on-going evaluation with our apprentice groups. 

Together we have been able to work closely to shape the learner journeys for our apprentices, making sure that the learning workshops for each unit not only meet the SVQ criteria but match our internal process.”

What is the Shape of the Programme?

Kerryanne explained:

“It was important that we created a programme that would have the Modern Apprenticeship qualification Spirits Operations SCQF 6 at the heart of it.  This has been created by industry leaders and is designed to enable anyone completing it to have the underpinning knowledge they need to support a career within any part of our sector.  Within this Modern Apprenticeship qualification, they also complete the IBD qualification in either General Certificate in Distilling or General Certificate in Packaging, and the latter fits nicely with our process as it leans more toward material science.”

In addition to the core of the Modern Apprenticeship qualification, the programme at The Glenmorangie Company includes internal learning topics built into weekly programmes.  Ranging from quality and an understanding of what this means across the business, through to personal branding and an insight into what this means for their success. These workshops help the apprentices put their learning into practice in their role and future careers.

Polaris Learning has helped The Glenmorangie Company to develop six of the workshops, tailoring them to the needs of their company and covering:

  • Health Safety and Environment
  • Effective Communication
  • Maintaining Quality and Compliance
  • Controlling Traceability
  • Problem Solving and Diagnosis
  • Personal Branding and Development for Career Progression

All the topics have been chosen in line with the overall strategy starting with the business vision and values and with each cycle of apprentices, The Glenmorangie Company and Polaris Learning add to the bespoke learning workshops and tasks to ensure they are agile to future business needs.

The Impact of the Modern Apprenticeships on The Glenmorangie Company

I was interested to find out the impact the Modern Apprenticeship programme has had on the business. Kerryanne said:

“The apprenticeship programme has encouraged all of us to review our process, and simplify and standardise our content and key messages.  It has encouraged all team members to have more understanding of diversity and generational differences that support our vision of a learning culture through knowledge sharing and great conversations. This supports innovation to future-proof our business.

What do the Apprentices Say? 

The Glenmorangie Company wanted to make sure that the whole package would appeal to a diverse range of people, helping them to recruit, develop and retain their employees. This started with a good salary suitable for the apprentices who need to be over 18 years of age and able to drive given that it is a remote site. The Glenmorangie Company wanted to be able to offer a clear foundation path to enable them to grow in their roles and grow in their lives outside of work, enabling them to plan for their futures with confidence.

Billy Tweedie, one of the previous apprentices used to work as a joiner but wanted more job security, told us:

“The apprenticeship gave me a great understanding of all aspects of the whisky industry and helped improve my skills and knowledge as an Operator to give me a solid foundation for a successful career within The Glenmorangie Company.”

Struan Chilton, another previous apprentice who started at 18 years with this as his first job said:

“Acquiring the knowledge of the industry, and how much work and time goes into making one bottle of whisky has been great!” 

What Happens Next?

From talking to Kerryanne, it is very clear that this has been a very successful programme so far.  It will continue to grow and evolve, and the team at The Glenmorangie Company will only be satisfied when they feel they have completely fulfilled the company’s vision and goals. Kerryanne stated:

“Throughout the delivery of the programme, we need to continue to move very quickly to adjust to individual needs while not straying from what the business also needs or the programme will not survive.”

The Highlights of the Whole Experience?

Finally, I asked what the highlights have been from the whole programme. Kerryanne knew straight away the highlights for her:

“Working as a team to get the apprentices over the finish line and onto permanent contracts while seeing them growing has been amazing.  For example, one apprentice was 18 years old when joining us, had never had a job and now owns their own house.  Another used to be extremely nervous when they did a presentation.  By the end of the programme, they confidently stood up in front of a senior team and did the final presentation brilliantly.  Being able to coach and mentor them, giving them honest feedback so that they can develop and grow is very rewarding.  Taking a mentoring approach with the apprentices has resulted in better engagement and confidence from them.  At the IBD dinner, we were delighted that one of the distillery managers mentioned how impeccably the apprentices behaved and that this team show the kind of behaviours that we would want Brand Ambassadors for our company to show. That type of feedback is very rewarding – we are all very proud of how much all the apprentices have achieved.”

I also asked what the benefits have been from working with Polaris Learning, particularly during COVID 19:

“Polaris Learning have been agile to our business needs by moving toward remote learning and support, constantly looking at ways they can come on site to assess but adhering to COVID guidelines.  The PLUS system really helps the apprentices have a key focus on the learning units and a consistent approach to completing them.”

We look forward to continuing working with everyone at The Glenmorangie Company as we help them shape and grow their Modern Apprenticeship programme.  The team at Alba are all a delight to work with, and it is great to be part of such a motivated and engaged team who want the best for their people.

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