Opticians scoops top prize at 2018 CIPD People Management Awards

26 Sep 2018 By PM Editorial

Judges praise Specsavers for strategic approach to apprenticeship levy; Harvester and ONS among other winners

Specsavers was awarded the top prize at the 2018 CIPD People Management Awards last night, winning acclaim from judges for its strategic approach to the apprenticeship levy. 

The opticians chain has offered apprenticeships since 2013. However, it boosted its activity after the April 2017 introduction of the apprenticeship levy, becoming the sole provider for the advanced apprenticeship in spectacle making and launching digital and technology apprenticeships in partnership with Solent University.

In particular, the judges were impressed that the high-street brand’s programme offered young people a viable alternative to university, awarding it the best apprenticeship scheme prize, as well as naming it overall winner.

Specsavers placed responsibility for administering the apprenticeship scheme, known as Grow Our Own, with a dedicated team within its global people and organisation function. Its apprenticeship recruitment team was tasked with hiring from a diverse range of ethnic and social backgrounds, and the organisation welcomed its 1,000th apprentice to the scheme in February.

“For our overall winner, this year we were looking for an initiative that has exemplified great practice, and shown the many different ways in which we, as a profession, shape organisations and their outcomes,” said Peter Cheese, CIPD chief executive. “The Specsavers apprenticeship scheme brought all of this together, providing an impressive range of opportunities for apprentices in different areas of the organisation, and also at a variety of skill levels. 

“Through this scheme, Specsavers has shown how much organisations can benefit through investing in skills,and how talent pipelines can be secured well into the future. They should be very proud of their work, and we congratulate them and all of our other winners”.

Other winners celebrated at the glamorous event at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel, hosted by TV presenter Steph McGovern, included: Office for National Statistics (ONS) for best digital initiative in HR or L&D, Harvester for best employee engagement initiative and Odeon Cinemas Group for best international HR initiative. 

Mike Beesley, CEO of headline sponsor Resource Management, added: “Congratulations to all those who won and who were nominated; the bar was set incredibly high. We hope that you found the evening as inspirational as we did, with the variety of nominees and the high calibre of initiatives. It’s definitely something to look up to.”

A full list of the winners is below. Details of highly commended entries and other shortlisted organisations can be found on the CIPD People Management Awards website, which also includes the stories behind the winning entries.

Best apprenticeship scheme


Best change management initiative

Yorkshire Building Society Group

Best coaching and mentoring initiative

London Borough of Barking and Dagenham

Best digital initiative in HR/L&D

Office for National Statistics

Best diversity and inclusion initiative

Morgan Sindall

Best employee engagement initiative


Best health and wellbeing initiative


Best HR/L&D consultancy

Executive Life Coaching

Best HR/L&D supplier


Best international HR initiative

Odeon Cinemas Group

Best L&D initiative – private sector

Greencore Group

Best L&D initiative – public/third sector

Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust

Best recruitment and talent management initiative


Best reward or recognition initiative

Exertis Express

Best skills-based volunteering initiative

Network Rail

Best SME people management initiative (<250 employees)

Today Team

HR/L&D team of the year

City, University of London

Michael Kelly outstanding student award – advanced level

Keith Houston, Allstate

Michael Kelly outstanding student award – intermediate and foundation level

Tom Sherry, Modern Apprenticeships in Rural Scotland

Head of HR (part time flexible)

Head of HR (part time flexible)

London (Greater)

£45k pro rata

College of Optometrists

Director of Human Resources

Director of Human Resources

Southwark, London (Greater)

In the region of £110,000 plus additional benefits


Senior HR Business Partner

Senior HR Business Partner

Bristol based

£57,350 - £60,217 (Pay band 10)

Office for Students

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