He made it to the final four in last year’s BBC TV series The Apprentice, now Nick Holzherr is now running his own apprenticeship scheme at his food-related business Whisk. He shares the benefits with FoodManJobs.
“We’ve been working with Jobcentre Plus recently and have taken on four young unemployed people as apprentices. It works well for both parties: they get invaluable experience and training on a core product that’s cool and intelligent, we get passionate people who get the job done and do it well. After only two months we’ve already taken one of them on as a full-time employee.”
What do you look for in prospective candidates?
“We recruit intelligent people because we give them a lot of responsibility. We’re a small business so we can’t afford the management overhead.
“Having initiative and common sense are really important. We’re a start-up business where we don’t have processes that have been around for centuries so people have to think for themselves.
“It’s also really important to employ people who care about what they do. It’s easy to be passionate about food but we want people working for us who really care about doing a good job.”
What are the benefits for the candidates?
“We’ve taken on people who don’t have much software knowledge and have trained them up to classify data garnered by our app Whisk. They learn how to process publisher content and create meta data [data about data] – about food ingredients and traffic, for example.
“Another of our apprentices is learning to work with video. So they get to work on things that are genuinely exciting and either stay on with us or leave with experience. It’s hard to find a job without experience.”
What are the benefits for you as an employer?
“Some investment is required from us but we get a genuine return because the apprentices add value to our business. We don’t hire anyone for a role that doesn’t exist, it’s real work that we need to get done.
“There’s a training cost but our return is someone who gets the job done and does it well. It’s nice to do something that’s useful to society but it’s not our primary driver – our apprentices are genuinely useful so it’s a good deal for us.”
Will you be taking on more apprentices in the future?
“The scheme has been very successful in the first two to three months so we’re going to continue. We told Jobcentre Plus we want as many candidates as they can send us and we’re looking to take someone on in the area of sales.”
What advice would you give to food and drink manufacturers who want to encourage young people to join their businesses?
“There’s no better market for employers than the one we have at the moment because there’s a huge pool of candidates to choose from. There’s no shortage of people who are passionate about food, they just need training.
“If employers are struggling for talent they should take the challenge on themselves and train their own staff. There are loads of schemes out there that can help.”
What can the food industry offer young people that other industries can’t?
“It’s about working on a sector and products that are critical: we all need to eat and drink. That’s what I love about working in the food industry: we’re creating something that can change people’s lives.”
What advice would you give to young people starting a career in the food industry?
“Choose a role that genuinely interests you. If you do that, you’ll automatically use your initiative and care about the role.
“Reading around the subject is important. Our education system teaches us to regurgitate information but young people should use credible thinking to find new ideas that would genuinely help the business. Self-teach and be focused on your goals.”
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to face in your career?
“It’s all about focus. In life you get bombarded with requirements and opportunities and it’s about being able to see through the mess to focus on what’s really going to deliver results. Businesses often try to do too many things.”
Some say the food industry has an image problem. Would you agree?
“Most people find the fact that we’re working with the food business a big drawing point. We’ve got famous TV chefs to thank for that.”