Here at the Co-op we’re committed to support colleagues with formal learning while also getting on the job experience. That’s why we’ve developed our Apprenticeship programme.

Our managers play a key role in supporting our colleagues during their apprenticeship, so this guide covers some important things you need to know if you’re managing one of our apprentices.

Talking to the team

Before an apprentice starts working with your team, make sure to talk to the team about what the apprenticeship involves and what this person will be able to do and what they’ll need to learn. You might want to explain things such as learning time and working patterns and answer any questions the team may have.

Joining the world of work

Remember that apprentices will have different levels of work experience, from never working before to many years of experience. Some might already be working with us.

Meeting new people, remembering where to go in the building and learning new responsibilities – it can all feel a bit daunting. So it’s important that you give our apprentices support in the first few weeks and months, to help them to settle in and build their confidence. This will give them the best chance of having a successful apprenticeship with us.

Getting comfortable with the basics

It’s sometimes easy to forget that what you might take for granted, our apprentices might not know. So make sure they’re comfortable with the ‘basics’ of the job. Even things as simple as knowing when to take your break and if you have to ask to leave at the end of the day, might not be obvious to everyone.

You could have your apprentice shadow or work closely with a more experienced team member so they can see how the job’s done and gain confidence of dealing with new and sometimes difficult situations.

Hours of work

All of our apprentices must work a minimum of an average of 30 hours a week. These hours are a minimum, so you shouldn’t give any less. If your apprentice wants to reduce their contractual hours, they’ll need to speak to you about it and follow the usual process for making a request.

If your team works shift patterns, you need to be fair to the new apprentice as well as current colleagues. Make sure you consider the apprentice’s personal situation and confirmed availability before allocating shifts, as you would with other colleagues. Apprentices shouldn’t be used just to fill a gap on an unsocial shift which your team struggles to cover.

Some shift patterns can mean our colleagues need to work alone. It’s not appropriate for an entry level apprentice to work on site by themselves. They can work remotely if their role allows.

Learning time

All apprentices are entitled to 20% of their working hours on the programme as learning time. These may be focused at the beginning, or spread throughout their programme. This is an essential part of the apprenticeship that’s been agreed with our learning provider, so it’s in our apprentices’ contracts. If you work in store this time will be factored into your forward rota through TARA.

During their learning time, the apprentice may need to go online to do research and complete online modules. If your workplace doesn’t have internet access they might need to do this off site. You may need to help the apprentice identify where they can do their online work. This could be the local library or a nearby Co-op location.

For certain modules the apprentice will need to actively demonstrate a behaviour or observe interactions. This can also be done within their learning time. Ask them when they’re doing their observations and what they’re looking for, so they can feedback their findings to you.

Learning time can also be used to have one-to-ones with their learning provider – either on the phone or face-to-face. Learning time could also include visits from learning providers or other support within Co-op.

It’s helpful to understand that the apprenticeship provider won’t release any new modules until they have completed the current one, therefore if not given this time the apprentice is put at a real disadvantage with their progress.

Just so you know, we’re subject to Government Ofsted visits so it’s crucial that you follow the time plan and learning time is allocated and kept to. Please help us to protect the Co-op’s reputation by doing the right thing by our apprentices.

Top tips on managing learning time

Learning time is protected time. To avoid the temptation to delay or move this time, especially during busy periods, block the time together in large chunks –like a few hours or a half day - rather than smaller amounts. It might be easier to let the apprentice start later or leave earlier one day.

Some apprentices might feel it works best for them to go to another Co-op location to complete their learning so they’re not distracted and other colleagues aren’t tempted to interrupt them with a non-learning task instead.

You could meet with the apprentice at the start of the week to understand their learning goals for the week and how they’re planning to work through their modules and then again at the end of work after their learning time see how they got on, what they learnt and if they need any support.

Ongoing Support

Your role as a manager of an apprentice is to observe the colleague in their normal work and give them feedback about how they’re performing. It’s important to talk to the apprentice about how they’re doing and anything they need to improve as they go along, rather than waiting to the end of their programme to give them this feedback.

As our apprentices join us on permanent contracts, you should deal with any other issues in the same way as you would for any other colleague. This includes managing sickness absence, family leave etc. If you need advice on this, call ER Services.

Monthly one to ones

The apprentice will have a regular monthly one-to-one meeting with their coach, which you’ll need to go to. These are in addition to your normal one to ones with the colleague. These meetings will be a mixture of phone and face to face.

Before the apprentice starts working with you, you’ll be given a plan with the times and dates of these meetings.

It’s important that you add them to your rota/calendar and make sure you stick to them. The coach will have committed to these meetings, so they shouldn’t be rearranged other than in exceptional situations.

If you do need to rearrange the meeting (for example if the apprentice is off sick) then you must tell the coach as soon as possible. So, make sure you’ve got their contact details.

You also need to attend these meetings, as your feedback and observations will help both the apprentice and the coach know how the apprentice has been developing. You should be available for at least 30 minutes for these meetings. Just so you know, it needs to be you as their manager who goes to the meetings – so don’t delegate it to other colleagues. The apprentice can only be signed off as successfully completing each stage and progress to the next module after these 3 way discussions, so it’s important that you commit the time needed and support your apprentice in their development.

End of the apprenticeship

If the apprentice successfully completes their programme, they’ll stay in the role that they’ve been doing as an apprentice. If they’ve not been successful in completing the programme or you have other performance concerns, then call ER Services for advice.

If the apprentice is successful, it’s important that you recognise this achievement. There’s lots of ways to do this, so find out what’s happening in your business.

Where appropriate, some apprentices are given an IPad or other equipment and materials to help them complete their programme. If your apprentice is completing the programme, or leaving the Co-op, please remind them to return them and keep them in a safe place. Just so you know, if the equipment isn’t returned, then your cost centre may be charged.

If you need further support

If you need further support in managing an apprentice please speak to your manager or your Learning and Development team. If you need advice on a specific employment issue, please call ER Services.