Five minute interview: Mandy Major, United Biscuits

What can businesses do to open their doors to a wider range of people?

From my experience, a diverse workforce brings fresh ideas and innovation. But working in a factory — and doing shifts — has its own challenges in attracting people from different backgrounds.

Businesses have to think about the barriers that potential candidates may have before applying for a role – like local transport or childcare. Setting up a transport system that allows people to get to work outside of public transport operating hours or ensuring working hours are considered during school holidays are both simple solutions that would attract diversity.

Are businesses doing enough to create opportunities for the next generation, regardless of background?
“Businesses have to think about the barriers that potential candidates may have before applying for a role – like local transport or childcare”

Businesses like ours can’t do much in terms of lowering the age of our apprentice schemes due to health and safety restraints. But we can throw our energies into other activities: for example, we have the opportunity to go into local schools and colleges and develop relationships with young people, educating them on the work we do and the different people they could meet.

Our team in Harlesden recently partnered with the college of North West London (CNWL) to celebrate the graduation of its 39 apprentices who carried out practical skills at the factory and theoretical skills at the college. For us, this was a great step forward towards using apprenticeships to take on more young people in different areas of the business.

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Michelle Cotter, Team Manager at Harlesden Manufacturing Site:

“Values and culture have played a big part in my career at United Biscuits. I have worked in an environment where the management have shown trust in my ability and therefore motivated and inspired me to move up the ranks from a Machine Operator to my current potion as a Team Manager”

Are businesses doing enough to bridge the gap between education and work?

I think we need to be more hands on, for example interacting with schools and looking at what businesses in food manufacturing could offer school leavers. If businesses offered more practical examples, it would make it easier for both teachers and students entering the field of work to understand more about business and what a career could offer them.


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