Case Study: Santander

Iain Gallagher, Head of Emerging Talent, and Fiona Hay, Emerging Talent Manager, explain what Santander is looking for in its apprenticeship programmes.

What are your main business objectives when it comes to the levy and apprenticeships?

Firstly, to raise our skill set to meet the organisation’s needs in the future, secondly, to tap into new talent streams and use the levy to develop that talent, and finally, to attract a more diverse workforce. Our customer base is changing and embracing technology rapidly, so we need to be on the front foot. We're also aware that our peers are thinking along the same lines, so we're keen to ensure we have programmes that attract the best candidates.

Has your talent management changed as a result of the levy?

The new apprenticeship model has been an opportunity for us to review our talent management strategy to ensure that we are providing the best opportunities to people and that we are sourcing the bank's need in the best possible way. A prime example is the technology and operations part of the business, where we have increased the number of apprenticeships we are recruiting. We are going further and growing our digital Degree Apprenticeships so that people are provided with the adequate digital skills.

Are you recruiting people regardless of age?

We're keen on using apprenticeships to help people who want to change careers. Certainly, we see apprenticeships as being open to anyone of any age. A bigger issue is geography. It is straightforward if you live in England, less so in Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales. We are a UK-wide organisation and we want to ensure that the apprenticeship programmes are simple, personal and fair, which can be challenging with four different apprenticeship frameworks.

How many apprenticeship roles do you anticipate filling in 2017/18?

We are still working on our numbers however we will be offering apprenticeships at various levels. Level 3 apprenticeships in the branch network are primarily aimed at new joiners and recent recruits, while we have level 2s are in our contact centre. There are the Degree Apprenticeships in technology and new level 5 apprenticeships in HR this year. We're also looking at apprenticeship programmes in finance and level 3 management programmes for new line managers.

How have you managed the requirement to give apprentices sufficient time to study?

The apprentices who are completing a Digital Technology Solutions degree apprenticeship work Monday to Thursday having their Fridays free to study, and it's working really well. It's more challenging at the branch and retail level where the business is very lean and every minute counts. So we use one-to-ones, coaching sessions, monthly webinars, and regular feedback meetings to ensure they meet the 20 per cent requirement away from the job. But honestly, many of our trainees learn on the job. Knowing how to engage with customers is one of the most important skills at Santander – and you learn this by being in touch directly with the customers, not in a classroom.

What role has BPP played?

They have been very proactive putting together our Degree Apprenticeships and very flexible setting up webinars, arranging the completion of relevant the paperwork and helping us understand who is and isn't eligible to be an apprentice. They have also worked with us to develop study programmes that can engage students of different ages with different levels of prior academic studies. Their online platform has also been key– as it allows apprentices to access learning wherever they are in the UK.

What advice would you give to organisations still working on their apprenticeship plans?

Make sure you get buy-in at the very top and that it filters down across the organisation, because you will encounter barriers as plans are implemented. You also need to be open and honest with your training provider about your company's culture and what you want to achieve, particularly if you want a bespoke programme tailored to your organisation's needs.