How can apprenticeships benefit the wider FMCG industry?

apprenticeships FMCG industryJaime Silvester, Head of Retail, IRI shares why she supports apprenticeship programmes and what apprenticeships mean for the FMCG industry’s future.

National Apprenticeship Week represents a focal point of the national drive to create wider training and employment opportunities for many young people seeking to get their foot on the first step of their career ladder. Apprenticeships offer employers from all industry sectors, including retail and FMCG, the opportunity to nurture the skills of those that may become the next generation of business leaders.

The world of work has changed drastically since apprenticeship schemes were formalised in the UK during the early 1960s. The digital revolution has impacted not just the way we work but also the type of jobs available to young learners. In response, businesses and academic institutions are collaborating to ensure that apprenticeship programmes help fill skill gaps in areas such as professional services, digital and technology. In doing so, they will help create new career paths that will prove essential for the growth of the retail industry and the economy.

Being within the technology and big data space, innovation is a core part of IRI’s DNA and data science has a crucial role to play in the retail industry. It touches all areas of our customers’ business operations. In collaboration with Co-op and the University of Keele, IRI offers an apprenticeship programme as part of a BSc (Hons) data science degree which is attracting students with an interest in the application of data science and computing to theoretical and real-world problems.

Retailers have masses of big data at their disposal. IRI works with its retailer partners to understand how to interpret this using AI and machine learning, which in turn provides them with critical information that helps businesses to remain relevant, identify future trends, capture market share and connect with millions of consumers.

Apprentices offer businesses something quite unique. Young people choosing this route are often deciding about the future of their careers, and this is something that really shines through in their tenacity, commitment and drive. By taking on enthusiastic, driven individuals and showing them the possibilities of data science and retail collaboration, we can inspire younger generations of learners who show an infectious enthusiasm for technology.

I’m confident that our apprentices will become future leaders and as such they’re going to be filled with curiosity, develop new ways of thinking and be supportive of the direction in which our business is heading.

Since we took on our first apprentice over three years ago, we’ve discovered some amazing young people that are genuinely interested in some of IRI’s core competencies, such as the interpretation of big data and the ability to understand how retailers think and operate. We plan to double our apprenticeship cohort over the coming years which will provide a critical pipeline of emerging talent.

There are other benefits too. Apprenticeships don’t just provide opportunities for new starters; they can also give existing staff a new challenge. Those who may not have had any previous mentoring or leadership opportunities can gain them working with apprentices through such programmes.

By investing time and attention now into influencing the future of the retail industry through providing exciting apprenticeship schemes, not only are we able to create new opportunities but we are helping to expand how we shape big data in the coming years, and that is exciting for everyone.

National Apprenticeship Week (NAW) runs from 8th-14th February. The theme for this year is ‘Build the Future’ and will focus on how employers train, retain and achieve with apprenticeships in the FMCG industry and beyond. #NAW2021 #BuildTheFuture


Jaime Silvester joined IRI in June 2017, leading the high growth area of Retail Collaboration Gateways and Loyalty Solutions before broadening her responsibilities to Head of Retail UK and joining the Executive Board in June 2019.