Kraft Heinz Care Leaver Traineeship Partnership Group 

Kraft Heinz Care Leaver Traineeship 

Briefly describe the initiative/ project/service; please include your aims and objectives

This project highlights the partnership working between representatives from Wigan Council, Kraft Heinz and Wigan & Leigh College to develop a programme to employ care leavers as manufacturing apprentices.

Kraft Heinz approached Wigan Council during the summer 2022, with the ambition to create 5 apprenticeships opportunities for a minority / vulnerable group of local people (the objective). After initial discussions between the two parties, care leavers were chosen as the beneficiary group to focus on. A traineeship programme was recommended by Wigan Council to Kraft Heinz as part of the initial dialogue, to help identify suitable care leavers and once this approach was agreed, Wigan & Leigh College were brought on board to help build the programme from a curriculum perspective.

The programme successfully concluded in January 2023 with 5 young people being offered supported apprenticeships with Kraft Heinz (with additional wraparound support from the council).

This was a fantastic achievement and a testament to the partnership working between the 3 organisations. Work is now underway to develop a follow-up programme, again with a focus on care leavers, that will commence in February ’24 and we are hopeful of more of our care leavers progressing into apprenticeships with Kraft Heinz.

The success of the programme would not have been possible without the commitment of the partners involved. This includes the employment and skills expertise from Wigan Council to help initially shape the programme and identify suitable care leavers. Wigan & Leigh College committing time and effort to secure accreditation for the Food Passport qualification around which the programme is based, alongside hosting regular meetings with the project group and developing and delivering a 3- day mentoring programme for Kraft Heinz staff. And finally to Kraft Heinz who have showed a fantastic commitment to the programme both strategically and operationally, showing empathy and understanding when dealing with the challenges encountered, and investing in their workforce through the mentoring programme.


What are the key achievements?

The key achievement of the project was supporting these young care leavers into manufacturing apprenticeships with Kraft Heinz. The traineeship proved to be the right approach to help the young people understand the role, including the location of the site (and travel needs), requirements for shift work and working environment conditions etc. It also gave the employer a more sustained opportunity to consider readiness and suitability for the manufacturing apprenticeships on offer.

Twelve care leavers started on the programme, and it had such a massive impact on all of them as for some this was the first time that they were engaging in such a positive programme. Even though all twelve did not complete, it still impacted on their confidence and building aspiration. They also all completed qualifications that will help them to progress into employment.

Perhaps the biggest achievement of the project has been the level of impact it has had on the young people who have gone on to secure an apprenticeship. These were care leavers that were so far away from employment and this opportunity has changed their lives for the better in a huge way.

Quotes from the care leavers include:

This has changed our lives, we would be in jail now. We have been given the best opportunity, we would never have got a job at Heinz without this. I wouldn’t have got through an interview. I hated school and would not have gone to college, now I am getting my maths and English.

I didn’t like college and dropped out. All I wanted was a job and now I have the best job. I have saved up and bought a really good bike to get me to work everyday.

The care leavers involved in the programme were certainly not without their challenges and it is testament to the partnership working of all parties involved that the traineeship programme was concluded successfully, and 5 young people progressed into apprenticeships with Kraft Heinz – achieving the initial project objectives. The majority of young people involved in the programme had some form of Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), with others involved in the youth justice system and special dispensation being needed to complete certain shifts for one young person who had been exploited by county lines gangs and was on a tag.

Two of the care leavers have now moved into a flat near the factory site in Wigan and continue to receive additional wraparound support from Wigan Council as part of a Supported Apprenticeship project funded by GMCA, working alongside the college and Kraft Heinz. In the new year the apprentices will be getting involved with the open days for the next care leaver traineeship programme and helping to give fellow care leavers an insight into their journey to employment.

University of York research suggests there is a minimum of £70k saved to the public purse for any young person moving from NEET to employment. For a care leaver (with SEND), it will be higher, (estimated around £100k). So estimated economic benefit for this project stands at around half a million pounds.


How Innovative is your initiative?

Developing and delivering a traineeship programme specifically for care leavers is undoubtedly a high-risk venture for a business, as retention is always a challenge given some of the trauma and experiences that our care leavers have experienced in their lives. But as demonstrated by the answers above, the commitment and expertise of the three partners has helped to make this project a success. So much so that we’ll be doing the same thing again in 2024! As far as innovation is concerned, there are several elements that we would consider to be innovative that have contributed to the success:

  • Mentor training programme – Kraft Heinz / Wigan & Leigh College – we cannot underestimate how important this 3-day training course has been in helping to achieve success. The mentor training programme was delivered by the college to prepare Kraft Heinz mentors and educate them about care leavers more generally, so they were in a better position to understand and support. It has been a catalyst to the success of the project and the majority of these mentors will be taking up this role again for the 2024 traineeship cohort.
  • Food Passport – Wigan & Leigh College – the Food Passport qualification was an accreditation obtained by the college as part of the development of this project. It has proved to be ideal for trainees in the food and drink industry and covers key elements such as food safety and general health and safety that must be adhered to in a factory. We hope that those trainees that were unsuccessful in securing an apprenticeship with Kraft Heinz may benefit from this qualification with some of the other food manufacturers in the borough.
  • Evolution of the programme – all partners – alongside strong lines of communication between the partners, the ability and readiness to change things on an ongoing basis was also a key component to success. There are a variety of examples of this where an issue was raised during a project meeting and the decision was made to revise the programme to overcome this. A good example being some of the college tutors lacked the experience of working with more challenging young people and this was causing problems, so the decision was made to change the tutors and this proved to be a great decision.
  • Traineeship suggestion – Wigan Council – the suggestion from Wigan Council to ‘bolt on’ a traineeship programme to the original proposal (5 care leavers into apprenticeships) from Kraft Heinz can also be considered as a key element to the success of the project. In all likelihood, should we have simply identified some care leavers for Kraft Heinz, and they had been enrolled onto the apprenticeships, we are unlikely to have seen the retention levels we have through this project. The traineeship enabled the care leavers to benefit from real life work experience which included key aspects such as travel to and from the site, shift work and so on.
  • General collaborative approach and partnership working – all partners – regular project meetings enabled progress to be reviewed in work and the classroom and quickly deal with issues as they arise, before they escalate to larger problems. With a challenging cohort such as care leavers, this close working and communication is vital to dealing with problems quickly in order to achieve success.
  • Supported Apprenticeship project – Wigan Council – this GMCA funded project has enabled the young people who secured apprenticeships to be assigned a Transition Keyworker who acts as another layer of support for them and helps to identify issues and work with other key stakeholders such as the Leaving Care Team at Wigan Council to resolve these.
  • In addition to the Transition Keyworker referenced above, the project has benefitted from the involvement of PA’s from the Leaving Care Team at Wigan Council. Having already developed strong relationships with the care leavers, this team have been integral to the success of the project and on occasions have helped to resolve issues in the classroom when they have occurred.


What are the key learning points?

The main take-away from this project is that communication is king! As referenced in the answers above, the success of the project can be strongly attributed to the collaborative work and regular communication amongst the partners of Wigan Council, Wigan & Leigh College and Kraft Heinz. With the challenges that care leavers tend to bring, it is vitally important that partners have a 360 degree awareness of things so that they are able to make the right people aware who can help to resolve the issues.

The traineeship was the right option from a programme perspective, and a catalyst for achieving the objectives of progressing people onto the apprenticeships. This helped to filter out those that were unsuitable, struggled to get to the site, didn’t like shift-work or the type of work etc. Although the traineeship element means it takes longer to reach the main Kraft Heinz objective of employing manufacturing apprentices, it helps to ensure the right people are recruited into the roles and retention rates remain high.

Educating people about care leavers is vital so that they understand the challenges faced and can support accordingly, building confidence and resilience and life skills. The 3-day mentor training programme developed and delivered by Wigan & Leigh College has helped to build this understanding, which has in turn led to some strong relationships being developed between mentors and mentees. Many of the mentors at the start of this journey had very little idea about care leavers and the challenges they face day-to-day.

We are already planning next cohort with Kraft Heinz and will learn from the pilot to improve things for 2024 and hopefully beyond. We now have a model that can be replicated and we already have another large company, PepsiCo Walker, wanting to implement a similar approach early next year with Wigan care leavers. The planning meetings are already very advanced for this.

Wigan has a strong food manufacturing sector, and we are keen to replicate this approach with other employers, including collaborative approaches with smaller employers – potentially looking to target other vulnerable groups in the future – NEET’s; refugees; SEND etc.


Additional Comments

GMCA have an annual visit from Senior Civil Servants and they chose to visit the Heinz factory to learn about the programme. Assistant Director at Wigan Council, Principal at Wigan and Leigh College attended alongside Luis Spinardi at Kraft Heinz and one of the apprentices and their mentor, to showcase this good practice. All were very impressed with the outcomes achieved.