Devenish Nutrition: Developing a bespoke Early Talent programme

Rebecca Scollan, HR Advisor, Devenish Nutrition. 

As an organisation we recognise and understand that to be a truly high performing organisation both now and into the future, we needed to develop an internal pipeline of talent, incorporating the right people, with the right knowledge, skills, and behaviours, engaged, rewarded, and challenged appropriately.  Therefore in 2019 the HR team at Devenish developed a bespoke Early Talent programme, which includes a Graduate Programme, Student Placement opportunities, Operational Qualifications and Apprenticeships and a PhD Programme to attract and develop young talent. Our Early Talent offering is outlined below and is primarily focused within our North West Europe division, although exposure may also be gained within our international division: 

  • Graduate Programme – this initiative is based on a two-year fixed term role with the aim of supporting four key areas of the business: Commercial, Technical and Nutrition, Business and Operations. The successful graduate is placed within one of the areas and rotates between sub departments, for example the Technical and Nutrition pathway exposes the graduate to our Pig, Poultry, Ruminant and Food Innovation departments. In addition to business experience, the graduate programme also includes an Entry to Management course which is offered via the Institute of Leadership and Management. Throughout the programme, the graduates are provided professional mentorship, support and guidance via their line managers, fellow colleagues, and Graduate Coordinator. 
  • Student Placements – in partnership with various Universities across NI, GB, and ROI, we offer a range of student placements to support students to gain industry experience within a fast-paced environment. Our placement offering is typically targeted towards Research and Development and Commercial and Technical for a fixed six to twelve-month paid placement. During their placement, the student will be offered a range of internal training courses, for example Time Management and Communications Skills. In addition to supporting students with their degree programme, as a Company we us this opportunity to engage and attract future employees. 
  • Operational Qualifications and Apprenticeships – this initiative is targeted towards our younger talent across the Operations departments; Maintenance, Production and Engineering. In partnership with local colleges, we offer Engineering Apprenticeships and NVQ qualifications in ‘Team Leading for Food Service’ along with Essential Skills i.e., Mathematics and English. 
  • PhD Programme – in partnership with a few Universities in NI, ROI, and the Netherlands, we support research and technical PhD programmes based on a full time or part time basis. Our PhD students focus on research projects to contribute to our current and future product offering and commercialisation. Many of our PhD students will work within a performance house or research farm setting to conduct practical experiments.  

To attract talent, we have built strong partnerships with Universities across the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland to increase brand awareness and offer our Early Talent initiatives through attending onsite or virtual events. We also support Universities by offering ‘Mock Interviews’ workshops to develop interviewing skills and support the transition from University to work. Furthermore, various representatives from our Commercial and Research departments would attend and present brief lectures at Universities/colleges/schools to provide an overview and insight of the Company and to engage with a younger audience.  

To retain talent, we strategically review people planning needs based on business and operational requirements and offer permanent roles to our young people if applicable. Furthermore, we are committed to offering various internal and external training and development opportunities and support professional development, e.g., via CIPD, CIM and IOSCM to further develop experience, skills, and knowledge.  

To create more career/job opportunities for you people, I think companies need to review their current people planning strategy and be creative with their recruitment process for the hiring role. For example, for trade and operational roles companies should utilise funding opportunities from local authorities and Governments to support getting young people into work. Apprenticeship programmes are beneficial to provide a practical and academic experience for a young person, whilst getting paid and benefiting from specialist skills and knowledge within the Company. I think people succession planning is key to reviewing people structure and where possible offering paid Graduate and Student placement opportunities to attract and engage with younger people to develop and nurture talent for the future.  

We recognise that our business strategy and growth is dependent on young people, therefore it is vital for our success that we attract and retain young talent through intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. Through motivation, recognition, and development we can nurture our young talent with relevant skills and knowledge to become future managers and leaders within the Company. As a young talent employee, I personally feel it’s very important to attract, hire and retain young talent as I have benefited considerably from the training and development opportunities available and supported by Devenish. Over the last four and a half years at Devenish I have transitioned and developed from an HR Placement Student to an HR Advisor role providing HR support to our Production, Warehousing and Maintenance teams in Belfast. I am very fortunate to have been offered professional development, mentorship, and career opportunities by Devenish, and therefore I feel strongly about attracting, retaining, and developing young talent to be future managers and leaders within the Company.   

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