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    First year Apprentices’ project demonstrates waste reduction with a return on investment for their employer

    31 May 2022

    As we are coming to the end of the first academic year for apprentices who started in September 2021, we are taking a look at progress made and the journey so far.

    Agata Marcinowska is a Training Programme Manager at AB World Foods and has just finished the first year of her Food industry Technical Professional Degree Apprenticeship at Harper Adams University.

    AB World foods is part of Associated British Foods, an international food, ingredients and retail group with 133,000 employees across 50 countries.

    AB World Foods has 8 locations across the world and employs 700 people. They are a major manufacturer of branded grocery products that include many market-leading household names such as Pataks, Blue Dragon and Tabasco.

    As part of the apprenticeship programme, apprentices will complete a work-based project each year that aims to provide the apprentice with new knowledge, skills and behaviours linked to the apprenticeship and to apply learning in the workplace.

    I spoke to Agata and her manager, Hans Bolton about the work-based project she is completing this year, to find out how the results have helped the business. For the first years’, the project title is “Understanding, Quantifying and Solving Problems”

    Apprentices are asked to look at a problem in the workplace and identify different ways of finding the root cause.

    This was the first time that Agata had managed a project, so along with developing problem solving skills, she also managed a team who were looking into the issue. Agata said she was looking at the standard tools for problem solving and comparing it to the methods she chose for the project. She said the team initially thought they knew the answer to the problem, so needed to encourage everyone to start from a “blank page” and not make assumptions about the solutions . They started to look at one aspect of the process but soon found that there were other areas where improvementscould be made. They are now working through the improvements and monitoring their success in order to reduce wastage in packaging and inconsistency in the weights of the product.

    They are also able to meet with their supplier and present data that shows an issue. In the past, they would talk to their supplier about an issue but didn’t have any evidence to support their claims. Now they can work with the supplier to resolve these issues.

    Following her analysis of the initial data, she was able to compare the data they would find from the standard problem-solving tools to the new methods and see that they would not have found the solutions with the standard methods. She presented her findings to senior managers and the slides have also been shared with the board of directors. Agata was able to demonstrate that looking at problems differently, rather than their traditional methods has produced much more information and allowed her to really see what the issues were.

    Hans said that Agata is gaining a wider experience across the manufacturing department and a greater understanding of the measures, targets and complexity since starting the apprenticeship. Agata said she enjoyed managing this project and she realised she had a lot of skills that enabled her to work through the problems and manage a team, who felt they already knew solutions to the problem. She has learned to be patient and not allow herself and others to jump to conclusions.  Agata said she is looking forward to starting the next year of study and looking forward to learning more about different topics.

    I asked her what advice she would give to apprentices who are starting their degree apprenticeships this year. She said it is really important to take it seriously and pay attention during the first week on campus! When she first started, Agata did not appreciate the time it takes to study and research for assignments. She said the first week at university taught her a lot about academic writing, referencing and planning that she still refers back to now. She said it is important to plan for study and not leave things to the last minute.

    Our Food Industry Technical Professional apprenticeship starts each year in September and we still have places available; if you are interested in finding out how apprenticeships can help your business, contact the team


    First year Apprentices’ project demonstrates waste reduction with a return on investment for their employer



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