At Bupa, we pride ourselves on being a diverse and inclusive organisation that nurtures and empowers its people. So, we were delighted to host representatives from a number of like-minded organisations this month for the Northern Talent Forum to discuss the Apprenticeship Levy and more broadly, diversity and inclusion.
The forum – a network created to nurture talent across the north of England – brought together companies including Kellogg’s, Asda, The Co-operative, Yorkshire Building Services and Salford City Council. It was great to have so many of our big employers in the Northwest in the same room talking about how we develop strategies that support talent in the region.
We kicked-off the forum, organised by Bupa and Kellogg’s with support from our committee members, with a discussion about the Apprenticeship Levy. Allan Milne, Head of Apprenticeship and Business Development at Salford, started the discussion with a presentation on the principles of the apprenticeship scheme. In my role as chairman of Bupa UK’s apprenticeship board, I am always looking for ways to develop and improve our opportunities. The companies in the room held more than £40m in Apprenticeship Levy funds combined, so it was a great opportunity to hear how they are using this fund to develop people and their plans for the future.
Here at Bupa, we offer apprenticeships in business areas including dental and care services. It was great to hear from Rebecca Pearson, Operations Director, Bupa UK Care Services, who shared the opportunities in our aged care business where we currently have more than 500 learners on apprenticeships, providing them a clear path to progression. We were very proud to share the achievements of Sarah Mair, who was this month named Health & Social Care Apprentice of the Year in the Lifetime Learner Achievement Awards. Sarah, who is now Home Manager at Bupa’s The Arkley Care Home in Barney, was nominated for thriving from strength to strength throughout her qualification with the judges saying her entry stood out as “truly inspiring”. Adding to this, in September, we hired our first cohort of care practitioner apprentices, helping bridge the gap between carer and nursing roles. While on the job, they will get training to develop their clinical and non-clinical skills.
As we all discussed our approach to the levy, what was clear is that there is scope to do more to utilise the fund to help attract and develop people as they begin their careers. This led to us sharing some great ideas on how we can develop some very purposeful strategies to use this money to build a more effective workforce. These included accessing approved apprenticeship courses through our local universities and colleges; developing our own accredited courses in areas such as customer services, and strategically taking a stance to spend this money to benefit our frontline staff by supporting the principles outlined in the 5% club. This aims to ensure that at least 5% of your workforce is on an apprenticeship. The good news for Bupa is that we are now aiming to make our number 10% in 2019.
The discussion then moved to diversity and inclusion, led by Sara Barrie of Sara Barrie and Associates. With case studies from Katie Wynn, Diversity and Inclusion Manager for Asda, Allison Fox and Georgina Ayres, from Bupa’s talent development team, and Jane Kidd, Talent and Diversity Manager for Kellogg’s, we started a conversation in the room about how we approach this topic. I was also very proud to share Bupa’s ‘Everyone’s welcome’ pledge, a commitment to celebrating diversity and inclusion in the workplace. We launched this at the official opening of our new office, Bupa Place in Salford, and encourage businesses to sign up online https://www.bupa.co.uk/everyones-welcome-pledge.
It was a lively discussion and what I saw was that different organisations see this in very different ways. The Northern Talent Forum and the discussions helped us to get more alignment on what diversity and inclusion is, how to create momentum from the top, and how to measure progress.