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European Vocational Skills Week
Rooting for young people:

investing for a green and digital future

As a member of the European Alliance for Apprenticeships, leading food and beverage company, Nestlé has committed to creating 20,000 apprenticeships and work-based learning placements across Europe, the Middle East and Africa by 2025. Nestlé will be celebrating the success of its youth programmes during European Vocational Skills Week in May, when they will highlight the stories of many young people learning new skills with the company. People like Walid Mulla.

Walid left the spiralling chaos of conflict in his native Syria to start a new life in Germany, shortly after completing his studies in food technology (food production and processing).

Arriving in the country with only elementary German language skills, Walid was determined to succeed, and successfully applied in August 2017 to work as an apprentice, a Food Technology Specialist at Nestlé’s Chocolate Factory in Hamburg.

Nestlé needs YOUth

“When I first joined Nestlé as part of the Nestlé Needs YOUth programme, my colleagues organised weekly meetings to help me integrate with the team,” says Walid. “But it wasn’t just about work. I was excited to use the time and share my passion for horse riding with many of my colleagues.”

Thanks to Walid's love of teamwork and determination to go the extra mile, he mastered his apprenticeship with flying colours.

Now aged 29, Walid works as a Production Specialist on the company’s Smarties plant operation at its core production site in Hamburg, where he is currently leading the supervision of new lines.

He is also responsible for ensuring the efficiency, safety, and reliability of the whole operation process and trains new apprentices who join the team.

“Nestlé fully invested in me as a young person arriving from Syria,” says Walid. “I’m taking that investment and passing it on to the next cohort of young people coming into the company as apprentices, ensuring their experience is as positive as mine.” 

Inclusive vocational education and training programmes

According to Bart Vandewaetere, Vice President of Environmental, Social, and Governance Engagement at Nestlé Europe, Walid’s success is an illustration of the company’s desire to help young people through inclusive vocational education and training programmes.

“It's a reflection of our company culture," says Bart. "We're rooting for young people. There is a culture of training that runs through our DNA. The success of this programme is seen in the fact that the young people we recruit and train throughout their professional careers, typically stay with us longer than other companies." Bart explains that vocational training at Nestlé helps bridge the skills and experience gap between school and the workplace.

“If we look at what young people learn at school and what they are expected to do in the workplace, there is a real mismatch," says Bart. "By putting these youth initiatives in place, and working with schools, with governments and other companies, we are helping to make a change to how young people study and acquire the skills required in organisations like ours.”

But Bart is also aware of the other benefits of working with such young people. With their passion for the environment and native digital skills, Bart believes they have the potential to be incredible change-makers for the company.

“We are the largest food and beverage manufacturer in the world, and with that comes a lot of responsibility,” says Bart. “Food is nutrition and is fundamental for our health. We also know that food production has an impact on the environment. If we can change how food is cultivated, processed, transported, distributed, and used by the consumer, it can have a massive positive impact on things like biodiversity and climate change. Nestlé has a commitment to reach net zero GHG emissions by 2050. We need young people to be part of that change.”

Bart highlights how Nestlé is working with young people who are blending traditional work-based skills with green initiatives.

“We currently have an intern at our IT Hub in Barcelona,” says Bart.

“Together with Nestlé Spain, he's working on his final university thesis examining the feasibility, economic profitability, and environmental impact of switching from the use of natural gas for electricity and steam production to green hydrogen energy at our factory in Girona.”

These types of opportunities are being created all over the organisation.

“They are created in the factory and the logistics centres, they are being created in the R&D Centre, and also in office-based roles, like finance, marketing, operations and HR,” says Bart. “What is very clear is that all roles within our organisation require digital and green skills on top of the traditional skills.”

Fully invested in VET

Nestlé is fully committed to the European Commission’s vision that Vocational Education and Training (VET) plays a crucial role in lifelong learning. VET provides young learners with the skills they need for their career and the ability to upskill and reskill throughout their working lives.

The company’s commitment to vocational education and training is so enshrined in the organisation that last year the company organised more than 60 of its own activities across Europe even if the European Vocational Skills Week was not organized at European level due to Covid.

“We felt very strongly that we had to continue because we wanted to fight any potential bias against those starting careers or transitioning from school and entering vocational education and training,” says Bart.

“These are real opportunities that lead to real jobs with a great future in our company.”

The sixth edition of EVSW will take place with themed events focusing on green initiatives across Europe from 16 to 20 May 2022.

Find out more

To learn more about how Nestlé is helping young people facilitate change in their lives, the workplace, and around the world, visit their profile on the European Commission’s website