The opportunity for vocational working

In the second of three articles Suzi Marshall provides the lowdown on apprenticeships for those getting their A’level results today

Suzi Marshall, operations director, Pizza Hut. Photosource: Pizza Hut

In recent years there has been a change in attitude towards vocational training. More young people are considering the benefits of stepping onto the career ladder straight after school and university is no longer regarded as the only route to a rewarding profession.

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As part of our series looking into the revival of vocational training, Suzi Marshall, operations director at Pizza Hut Restaurants, discusses the benefits of joining an apprenticeship programme and provides advice to employers who might be considering offering or already offer a vocational training programme.

Today, across the country, hundreds of young people are opening their results and finding out what this means for the next few years of their lives. It is a hugely exciting time and a pivotal moment for many and its important for young people to choose the career path that’s right for them.

It might seem daunting but they shouldn’t despair – there are plenty of opportunities out there, either at university or in the workplace to help set a positive and successful course for a future career. The rise in high quality apprenticeships for example has been a welcomed option for many seeking the skills and support they need to head straight into industry.

What is important is that, as employers, we are helping to encourage those considering vocational working. We need to use this as an opportunity to attract and build a talent pipeline to help us meet potential skills shortages in the future.

Why should young people consider apprenticeships?

It is worth reminding young people of the benefits of apprenticeships. Kick starting a career by joining an apprenticeship programme can be a great way to get a head start in an industry. The hands-on training provides the opportunity to build and test skills and delivers an all-important boost in confidence in the working environment.

Hospitality is an industry that lends itself well to apprenticeships and vocational working. It offers a collaborative environment and is well set up to provide on-the-job training to help individuals build skills and grow their confidence quickly.

I speak from personal experience. Having started out waiting tables at Pizza Hut aged just 15, I enjoyed it so much that I stayed. Some years on, in my role as operations director at Pizza Hut Restaurants, one of the things I love the most is guiding and advising people who want to work their way up the career ladder internally. 

It is fair to say there has been a resurgence in apprenticeship programmes and not just across the hospitality industry. While this is hugely encouraging, it does create some challenges for employers. Competition is fierce for candidates and so it is important for employers to create unique and competitive propositions to entice people into their business.

So what are the ingredients for a good apprenticeship offering, what should employers try to promote?

While there are many factors that can help make your programme stand out, training, personal development, progression and working environment are all important elements to consider when attracting people to your business.  


Working with other organisations and experts can help add value to your training offering and set it apart from other businesses. For instance, while we offer comprehensive on-the-job training to develop technical skills, we also work with the School of Life to help support personal development and enable our employees to tackle issues such as anxiety, depression and lack of confidence.

This is enhanced through our training with Heartstyles, a character development platform that helps drive positive behaviours and values to build a more constructive, positive and collaborative working culture.

One of the advantages of offering vocational training is the ability to mix academic and practical modules to create a more rounded individual. The structure enables individuals to learn sector specific skills at the same time as gaining qualifications to help progress more quickly within the business and the wider industry.

We recently announced plans to create 1,500 apprenticeships over the next five years offering qualifications at all levels including at degree standard – a first for the hospitality industry. This September, five individuals will be starting their degree programme whilst working at Pizza Hut Restaurants, where they are aiming to get the best of both worlds – experience and qualifications.


Considering how you support apprentices to develop a long-term career within your business is an important element in attracting talented people. Ambitious young recruits will be interested to know what to expect in terms of opportunity and progression.

By offering a comprehensive range of levels of apprenticeships and opportunities, whether an intermediate apprenticeship or a degree level management programme, you can provide each individual with the potential to develop a unique, long-term career within your business.


While it is important to get your apprenticeship programme right, you should also look at the other elements that make you an attractive employer. One of the most important factors is that of the working environment and company culture.

It’s not surprising that economists at the University of Warwick found that happiness led to a 12 per cent spike in productivity. By fostering a positive culture from entry level right through to management level you will create a more motivated workforce eager to drive the business forward – and eager to share positive employment stories with others in the industry. After all, your people are your most effective ambassadors.

Having a positive working culture and providing a nurturing environment is something we strongly believe in. As an employer our vision is to be the most loved place to eat and work and we recognise the importance of investing in our people to develop a more skilled and motivated workforce for the future.

By building a collaborative culture focused around our restaurants, we provide our employees from front of house to back of house with an environment they love and feel proud to work in. If your team members are happy and are given the right skills to succeed, then they in turn will deliver a better service to your customers.

Over the last few years vocational working has experienced something of a comeback. So while young people across the country are celebrating or considering their options for the future, it is a good time to make sure your offering is up to scratch. It is a competitive market place for talent but by reviewing your training, culture and progression opportunities, you can help to make your business stand out.


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