Utilising intermediate apprenticeships for business success

Since the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy and Standards in 2017, apprenticeship training priorities have shifted for many businesses. Apprenticeships have replaced many organisations internal training and there has been an increased interest in the opportunity to deliver programmes from intermediate (Level 2) up to degree level (level 6 and 7) apprenticeships. With the recent pandemic causing job insecurity and potentially a reduction in team members, investing in your current team and providing essential training could support your business stabilise and succeed. 

In this article we are focusing on intermediate apprenticeships and how establishing access to apprenticeship training for your junior team members, who are looking to develop, is a proven way to embed training into your everyday and create a training culture.

By delivering intermediate apprenticeships you can:

  • Develop the professional skills within your business
  • Grow your talent internally
  • Improve your retention rates
  • Inspire a culture of self-development

How Level 2 apprenticeships add tangible value

Personal and professional training

Apprenticeship training goes beyond knowledge, it focuses on embedding behaviours and practicing skills. The learning itself becomes a skill and the assessments showcase tangible learning traction, unlike most internal or traditional training. The level 2 programmes support apprentices’ personal and professional skills, focusing on their strengths and talent. Tesco’s Level 2 provides training for those working to be the best they can be, without necessarily looking to climb the career ladder.

Manager engagement

Mentor support is essential to the success of your apprentices. Whitbread have seen a clear alignment between training and communication to mentors and very highly engaged learners. Initial investment in mentor training, delivered in partnership with a training provider, can deliver impactful results and ensure you maintain commitment on programme.

Creating a Career

Aligning your apprenticeship training to potential career pathways motivates your apprentices to achieve. It showcases your commitment to supporting an inclusive training culture, from entry level to CEO, and improves the retention and successful completion. Nuffield Health have created a level 2 pathway that specifically develops their Healthcare Assistants in readiness for their Level 3 programme.

Recruiting to retain

Recruited apprentices, at level 2, can be more likely to stay with your business as they feel invested in and supported. Aldi offer two entry routes from level 2 and of those that achieve, 85% remain in the business. Utilising a training provider to do this for you can also save financial, time and resource cost. B&Q have already seen increased retention in their Customer Assistant Level 2 programme.

How are key players delivering the Level 2 apprenticeships?

Jo Vincent, Apprenticeship Lead at B&Q shares the benefits they have experienced from utilising the Retailer Level 2 apprenticeship programme in their stores. B&Q offer programmes from Level 2 to Level 5 across their organisation and have created development and talent routes across their roles to support their commitment to training for all.

B&Q have over 250 level 2 apprentices in learning and over 100 have achieved their programme


It’s been really exciting and important for us as an employer to have an in-role development programme for all our customer facing colleagues. The Retailer Level 2 programme has been fantastic for our Customer Advisors, allowing them to be the best they can be every day at helping our customers. Since introducing the Retailer Level 2 programme for our existing colleagues we have seen an increase in retention and had some amazing individual stories. Because of this success we are currently operating a recruitment trial which, whilst in the early stages, has generated really good feedback based on the calibre of individuals being invited to interview.


Nicole Swaby, Apprenticeship Lead at Nuffield Health shares how they are proud to deliver the level 2 programme, as it supports their businesses goal of making a bigger social impact. Nuffield currently have 56 level 2 apprentices on programme which equates to 27% of their current apprentices in-learning. They use this level to support new employees joining their business or to retrain individuals who have moved from different departments.

As part of the level 2 offering, Nuffield have worked with Lifetime Training to build a bespoke pathway for their Healthcare Assistants. This incorporates the care certificate and key units that meet Nuffield’s demands for the apprenticeship across their hospitals. This allows all Healthcare Assistants to then progress on to the level 3 within their area of work before moving towards the level 5 programme.


Offering Level 2 programmes gives scope to enabling our business to make a bigger social impact, not limited to but including addressing any equality issues at the same time. Level 2 is also often where the government can fulfil its ambition of getting young people into apprenticeships. Plus, it is this level that often offers the alternative development pathway to traditional school/college route which is not for everyone.

Whitbread PLC

Richard Brooks-Harley, Apprenticeship Delivery Manager at Whitbread PLC reviews how aligning the level 2 apprenticeship with their internal career pathway has been an essential step in improving retention in their business.

Across their apprenticeship programme rolling 90-day attrition rate for turnover is 139%. This drops to 2% when a new starter enrols upon a level 2 apprenticeship programme within the first 3 months of employment. After 2-3 years’ service their non-apprentice turnover is 40%, for level 2 apprentices this is only 7%.

Whitbread have real-life examples of apprentices starting a level 2 programme and progressing through level 3 and level 4 to gain a promotion to Assistant Hotel and Hotel Manager roles. Showcasing that this succession planning works.

Whitbread currently have 43% of their learning base on a level 2 apprenticeship.


Level 2 Apprenticeships are an important gateway to learning opportunities for our colleagues. We have case studies that clearly demonstrate how level 2 apprenticeships improve retention and can lead to promotion into new roles. All Whitbread apprenticeships are mapped into our induction and development pathways (called the Skills Matrix) so a colleague can become an in-role expert, plus have the benefit of identifying their next promotion opportunity. Level 2 is the foundation where a colleague often takes their first steps into a development programme post school or college and are therefore vital to Whitbread and our apprentices.


Jim Murphy, Training Manager at Iceland Foods shares his vision for level 2 apprenticeships and how supportive they are to the development of colleagues, enabling them to be multiskilled at this level. Iceland currently have 533 learners on programme across level 2, 3 and 4 in England and a further 109 in devolved nations.

Jim’s vision is to have one level 2 apprentice in every store of which there are c950 stores in the UK alone.


For many of our leaners the training offered in the Retailer Level 2 Apprenticeship is their first development opportunity and has become a vital part of the career path for our front-line colleagues. We are seeing colleagues who are multi-skilled and highly motivated on this apprenticeship. They see themselves as the future management in our Stores and the apprenticeship is the key to reaching their goal. The major benefits Iceland have found are that our retention rates are much higher and increased commitment to our brand in the long term.


What are the other benefits?

Level 2 apprenticeships can improve your approach to social mobility, diversity, and inclusion.

The Apprenticeship Diversity Champions have stated in their recent Apprenticeship Diversity Champions Report that “companies with a more diverse workforce perform better financially. Every 1% increase in the diversity rate of a workforce, can lead to a 9% rise in sales revenue. In short, a diverse workforce makes good business sense."

The Social Mobility Commission also found in their Apprenticeships and Social Mobility Report that “apprenticeships are one of the few indisputably effective tools of social mobility currently available to the government".

By driving an inclusive culture, organisations can increase the diversity of their workforce, and offering Level 2 apprenticeships is a positive way to do this. Not only gaining financial benefit, mentioned above, but the benefits of having apprentices in the business

Offering apprenticeships at entry level can provide the following benefits:

  • Reach a more diverse candidate base.
  • Ensure training and development is embedded at the start of your career ladder.
  • Raise your organisations profile, as one who invests in training and development.
  • Utilise your levy effectively and inclusively across your organisation.

Apprenticeship are often a preferred education route, for those from disadvantaged or BAME backgrounds, to more traditional routes such as university. The opportunity to ‘earn and learn’ is less of a barrier to enter education and through “completing an apprenticeship [they] receive a larger boost in their earnings than non-disadvantaged individuals. This is particularly true at the first step on the apprenticeship journey (Apprenticeships and Social Mobility Report). Providing apprenticeship opportunities at a career entry point ensures that you attract a more diverse range of candidates and support social mobility.

About Marie Vickery


Marie Vickery is a Director on the Executive Team at Lifetime Training and leads the Business Development, Marketing and Partnership Launch functions.

With thirteen years of extensive knowledge of the pre and post-levy apprenticeship landscape, Marie has supported hundreds of national companies to successfully introduce apprenticeships into their business.

Getting started

At Lifetime we have experienced the incredible impact level 2 apprenticeships can make on an individual’s life, and how utilising the apprenticeship levy to support an inclusive workforce can bring real rewards to an organisation. As a Patron Member of the BAME Apprenticeship Alliance we are committed to supporting an inclusive approach to training.

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