Finalist Whitbread reaping the rewards of apprenticeships

Leading UK hospitality business Whitbread Group PLC, which has more than 800 hotels, 400 plus restaurants and in excess of 36,000 employees, is reaping the rewards of its strong commitment to apprenticeships.


The business has discovered that its staff retention rate is 10% higher for apprentices, which equates to £5 million in reduced costs, increased sales and better guest experiences.


Apprenticeships from Levels 2 to 5 are delivered by Lifetime Training, in partnership with Cambrian Training Company in Wales, for staff ranging from chefs, housekeepers and receptionists to managers and team and project leaders. Achievement and distinction rates are substantially above industry averages.


Now, Whitbread Group PLC has been shortlisted for the prestigious Apprenticeship Awards Cymru 2024 as a Large Employer of the Year finalist.


Highlight of the year for apprentices, employers and work-based learning providers and practitioners, the awards are organised by the Welsh Government and supported by the National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW). Headline sponsor is EAL.


The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony to be held at ICC Wales, Newport on March 22, 2024. The awards highlight the outstanding achievements of employers, apprentices and work-based learning practitioners.


Over the past year, more than 270 Whitbread Group employees have achieved an apprenticeship and in excess of 2,000 are working towards one across the UK. A network of Apprenticeship Champions supports the development of learners across the business.


Apprenticeships are integral to Whitbread’s Force for Good programme which gives all employees the opportunity to learn and develop. A ‘no barriers to entry’ approach for apprentices aims to ensure that all employees reach their potential.


In a UK-wide survey, 86% of the company’s employees said an apprenticeship had improved their confidence in their role and 90% believed they had developed new skills. 47% were promoted or have taken on extra responsibilities within a year of completing their apprenticeship and 20% of deputy hotel managers were promoted from an apprenticeship.


This commitment to learning and development has helped Whitbread to achieve a Top Employer status for 13 years running.


Richard Brooks-Harley, Whitbread Group’s apprenticeship delivery manager, said: “Our founder, Samuel Whitbread, was himself an apprentice which makes apprenticeships a core part of our DNA.”


Matthew Summerbell, senior operations manager at Lifetime Training, said Whitbread promotes apprenticeship opportunities with schools and colleges, particularly in deprived areas.


“The combination of the apprenticeship culture, stakeholder engagement and community outreach results in positive achievements and outcomes, with apprentices twice as likely to be promoted within Whitbread and 30% more likely to stay with the business,” he added.

Economy Minister Vaughan Gething congratulated the Whitbread Group and all the other finalists. “Today’s apprentices will be tomorrow’s specialists, and Apprenticeship Awards Cymru allows us to recognise apprentices, work-based learning practitioners, and employers that have gone above and beyond,” he said.

“Their tenacity, passion, and commitment to growing their own careers, the careers of others, and the larger Welsh economy is inspiring. I wish each of the finalists the best of luck at the awards and with their future endeavours.”

Congratulating the finalists, Al Parkes, managing director at EAL, said: “As the specialist awarding organisation and skills partner for the engineering and manufacturing industry, apprenticeships in Wales are especially important to us.

Apprenticeships play an important role in supporting personal progress through career opportunities and a sense of achievement, while ensuring that employers have the right skills at the right time to keep up with evolving industry needs.

“EAL is committed to encouraging employers to take on apprentices. Marking the achievements of employers, apprentices and work-based learning practitioners at the Apprenticeship Awards Cymru is vital to this.”

For more information about recruiting an apprentice, visit: or call 03000 603000.

Picture caption:


Whitbread Group apprentices Rebecca Cleary, Corey Proctor, Luke Williams, Stacey Trace, Kate Palmer, Shannon Watkins, Kayla Millon, Alethea Lloyd and Tyra McMahon Premier Inn Cardiff.