The research by the Suffolk-based company also found Brits are in favour of hands-on experience, with 84% saying experience in a practical working environment, such as a pub, builds character.
With Hospitality Apprenticeship Week set to kick off on Monday 2 October and run until Sunday 8 October, Bush explains why the negative connotations of working in hospitality are simply not true and carving out a career in a pub is something to be proud of.
The Morning Advertiser (MA): Tell us about what your role as ‘chief people and transformation officer’ entails and how did you get the job?
Andrew Bush (AB): My role as chief people and transformation officer means I have two key areas of responsibility. Firstly, I’m responsible for ensuring Greene King is a great place to work and ensuring we have a culture and environment where everyone has the freedom to succeed.
Secondly, I’m responsible for our programme of business transformation ensuring we are developing our business for our customers and our teams.
During my time at Greene King, the role has evolved significantly, as I originally joined back in 2017 as group HR director. This then evolved into chief people officer, overseeing the HR teams that look after all our 39,000 team members, learning and development teams as well as recruitment.
MA: What is your background?
AB: I joined Greene King in 2017 from Brakes Group where I was group human resources director for five years. Prior to this, I was HR director at Argos, and before that I worked in a variety of senior HR roles in the Kingfisher Group.
MA: What can Greene King offer for young adults in terms of different work roles, particularly apprenticeships?
AB: The benefit to a Greene King apprenticeship is that there’s such a wide variety of roles on offer, meaning they cater to individual needs. People who are new to hospitality can find their feet, earning while they learn – while people who are currently in an existing role can develop new skills that will supercharge their career growth.
We offer 35 different apprenticeship courses so people can choose a development path that works for them. These courses include both front-of-house and back-of-house roles including (but not limited to), team leader, bar and waiting and chef apprenticeships in our Chef Academy programme.
It’s important to remember that successful applicants don’t just get hands on experience, they also gain a qualification upon completing their course that can help them progress in their career. We offer a range of qualifications, including production chef Level 2, which is equivalent to 5 x GCSEs – right up to senior level 7 (MBA).
MA: Do you think working in a pub is seen negatively in UK society?
AB: Pubs play a really important role in our communities by creating job opportunities and setting people up for long-term, rewarding careers within their local area. However, I think that some people still perceive that a pub job is a stop-gap and not a long-term prospect – but that’s just not the case.
There’s so much career potential within the pub industry, and apprenticeships can give people the boost they need to learn and develop new skills, which they can use to build a successful and fulfilling career.
MA: Why is it actually something positive and what can it lead to?
AB: There’s really no limit to how far you can go with in the hospitality industry, especially with an apprenticeship qualification. We’ve had team members start as front-of-house staff and work their way up to general manager level.
We’ve had team leaders take on additional qualifications and go on to become a business development manager, overseeing multiple pubs and becoming inspirational role models for other team members within the business, who want to follow in their footsteps. This is an industry where there are opportunities for everyone, irrespective of background.
MA: Do you have any practical advice to those who do not get into the universities they want to?
AB: Naturally, anyone who doesn’t get the grades they want, or need, is going to be disappointed but as well as looking at the existing options such as clearing – I’d recommend considering the alternative career paths that are available.
There are so many options for skills-led courses and other qualifications; apprenticeships are just one of many choices.
The most important thing is to pick the path that’s best for your own situation. Some people will be better suited to a practical working environment that lets you learn on the job, compared to a more academic setting. For people looking for an alternative option to university, an apprenticeship means they can earn from the outset without incurring student debt.
It’s also important to remember that apprenticeships are not solely entry level qualifications, they go right up to a degree level equivalent that can be used to boost your career significantly.
MA: Have you got a degree? If so, what is the subject and did it help you get your current job?
AB: I studied Economics and Law at Newcastle University and although the subject matter isn’t directly related to what I now do in my role, the skills I used to gain my degree have been transferable and have helped me throughout my career. While I have got a degree, I don’t believe it’s essential to have a degree to reach senior management levels in this industry.
MA: Is working in a practical role better than studying in a theoretical environment?
AB: It’s worth remembering that apprenticeships blend the two, although the work is weighted towards practical learning. Like everything, it depends on how you learn best. Many of the skills you’ll pick up during your apprenticeship qualification will be practical, but they’ll also be transferable between roles and can be used as you progress throughout your hospitality career.
MA: Can you give a case study of an apprentice (or explain how they started at GK and progressed)?
AB: A great example of how our apprenticeship scheme helps unlock potential is the story of Dan Nicklin, who is now an investment project manager.
Despite leaving school a straight A student and getting into his first choice at university, Dan quickly realised the degree qualification wasn’t for him. After just three months, he left his course and focused on his career in hospitality – he’d recently started working in a local Greene King pub in a part-time role and quickly realised it was the perfect place to develop his skills.
Starting in July 2007 as a young kitchen porter, Dan worked his way up to business development manager, doing various roles both front and back of house, such as kitchen staff, bar staff, trainee assistant manager, assistant manager, general manager and drinks operations manager to business development manager.
In 2020, Dan moved into a HR business partner role and is now an investment project manager, overseeing how Greene King can improve its systems and processes to ensure greater success of our investment programme in our Destination Brands division.
During the past 16 and a half years, Dan has completed many internal courses and qualifications including three apprenticeships and management programmes from Level 3 right through to Level 5. He’s now in the process of completing the Level 7 senior leader programme to continue to develop his skills.
MA: Is there anything the Government could do to help people into apprenticeship roles and is Greene King taking advantage of the money it puts in via the Apprenticeship Levy?
AB: Yes, we are an employer that uses all of our apprenticeship levy. It is there to support businesses and help develop your workforce’s skills. Investing in people is the best thing you can do to improve your organisation in the long run. Since the introduction of the apprenticeship levy, we’ve seen better engagement scores and retention figures, with people being empowered to progress through the company. I think it would be helpful if the Government would enable businesses like us to use the levy more flexibly.