Whitbread - Investing in Skills and Education

Good for society
  • The programme has delivered 2,933 work experience placements, 996 educational outreach visits, 3,260 work placements and 2,377 apprenticeships.
  • WISE has improved the wellbeing, self-esteem, confidence and employability of young people, many of whom were not previously in education, employment or training.
The Unipart Inspiring Young Talent Award, Finalist, 2016

WISE is a ground-breaking programme that educates, engages and employs young people, often from disadvantaged backgrounds, and supports them into the world of work. Run by Whitbread, it provides opportunities in the hospitality sector.

Good for business


The Whitbread Investing in Skills and Education (WISE) programme helps to break down the barriers to employment for young people, many of whom have low self-esteem and limited aspirations. The programme offers work experience placements, school visits and apprenticeships. 

Whitbread is the UK’s largest hotel, restaurant and coffee shop operator with 49,000 employees. Every year the firm creates around 3,000 new UK jobs and it has ambitious growth plans for its two leading brands, Premier Inn and Costa.

It is projected the UK hospitality and tourism sector will need to recruit 660,200 new employees by 2020. With 21% of 16-24 year olds being unemployed, WISE will play an important part ensuring young people are ready to fill the posts.

Whitbread created WISE in 2012 to speed up, scale up and join up Whitbread’s engagement with the education system, create employment opportunities, support young people’s entry into employment, whilst making lives better in communities. This investment also ensures that the company develops a pipeline of young talent to enable planned growth.  

The WISE programme has transformed how Whitbread works and interacts with local communities. Whitbread has earned respect from government and business leaders for the relentless drive and determination it has shown to embed the WISE programme so that is becomes business as usual.


Whitbread has ambitious growth plans for its two leading brands, Premier Inn and Costa. By 2020, the firm plans to increase the size of Premier Inn to around 85,000 UK rooms and increase the system sales of Costa to around £2.5 billion.   

Before WISE, Whitbread’s commitment to work experience, placements and apprenticeships for young people was ad hoc, not monitored centrally, and although well-meaning, not controlled in terms of time and investment. Since WISE, activity has been rigorously recorded, quality assured and progress reported and evaluated in terms of social and business impact. 

WISE has also applied innovation in HR strategies, enabled the detailed analysis of recruitment and education data, resulting in real business impact and effective new recruitment models. It has also established Whitbread as an industry leader in employee development, training and growth.  


Since March 2013 Whitbread has invested £4.7m in the 16-24 age group impacted by WISE. This represents around 10% of the company’s £12m annual training budget.    

Whitbread estimates that a minimum of £1m of “in time and in kind” support is annually invested in WISE (team members and resources adding value by facilitating work experience, work placements and apprentices).   

Measuring success

The range of external stakeholders, partnerships and collaborators engaged by the WISE team since 2012 is vast and exemplary. This outreach has resulted in a wide recruitment net enabling more young people to benefit from career opportunities. Partnership has contributed significantly to the early achievement of original WISE targets and resulted in new and even more ambitious ones being announced.  

On the launch of Costa’s roll-out of apprenticeship opportunities into 150 stores and announcement of new WISE targets in April 2015, Prime Minister, David Cameron said “There really has never been a better time to start an apprenticeship - it’s a huge leap forward to have Whitbread, one of Britain’s leading employers in the hospitality industry, hiring even more apprentices.”  

What Whitbread's CEO said:

“Whitbread’s Corporate Responsibility programme, Good Together, is at the heart of our business philosophy and part of the way we operate. Whitbread Investing in Skills and Employment (WISE) is a central pillar in this programme and goes from strength to strength as we create opportunities for people to get into work, learn new skills and develop their careers. Business results and social impact for WISE are trail blazing and in 2015 new ambitious targets were set for the programme. Customers, team members and community partners confirm that WISE makes a real difference to people working in our business and living in communities where we operate.” - Alison Brittain, CEO, Whitbread plc

  • WISE has led to innovation in HR recruitment, training and development models, benefiting Whitbread and the hospitality sector, and generated a valuable employment dataset.
  • With a proven model that increases talent retention, training savings and cost-efficient recruitment, projected five-year cost savings from WISE are £13.5m