What’s behind Morrisons award-winning degree apprenticeship with Amberjack?

Apr 12, 2022 | Apprentices & school leaver

Morrisons and Amberjack won the ISE award last year for best apprenticeship strategy. They explain their approach to success.

Morrisons is the fourth largest chain of supermarkets in the UK. They began life as an egg and butter stall in Bradford before evolving into a business with almost 500 stores across the country. The supermarket now sources and processes their fresh produce through their own manufacturing facilities and have it prepared in-store.

With a workforce of around 97,000 – serving 11 million customers each week – Morrisons is committed to finding future leaders. It has a long tradition of retailing excellence and early careers talent such as apprentices are vital to future success. A third of the Morrisons’ senior management started on the shop floor and most store managers are appointed internally.


Morrisons partnered with Amberjack to create a new degree apprenticeship programme to accompany the existing graduate scheme, using a different approach to ingrain its ‘Ways of Working’ at an early stage.

The supermarket wanted Amberjack to develop tailor-made apprentice recruitment programmes for manufacturing, corporate, logistics and retail roles in partnership with the University of Bradford and Sheffield Hallam University.

The purpose of these programmes was to identify candidates with the potential to improve Morrisons’ performance, culture and future direction. Each apprenticeship recruitment programme needed to be customised to the organisation’s exact needs.

Morrisons wanted to target candidates in an engaging way that aligned their talent with the roles, while also changing pre-existing perceptions and educating them on the diversity of the business.

Morrisons was determined to improve the quality of candidates before providing the skills and experience for them to enter a management role with CMI chartered membership after three years.


To design Morrisons’ requests, 50 business leaders were interviewed to help identify the core behaviours required for role success and to ensure we were assessing the right fit for Morrisons’ business streams. Insights from these interviews shaped the attraction and recruitment strategy for the new processes.

The attraction strategy was digitally driven and included transforming the Morrisons website to create authentic and insightful content that would resonate with both students and their influencers, such as parents and teachers.

The new and innovative recruitment processes included a short registration, situational judgement test and video interview that introduces programme specific case studies featuring colleagues. This provided an interactive and realistic experience.

Before the pandemic, assessment centres were held at programme sites so candidates could take part in bespoke exercises in the environment where they applied to work, assessed by real colleagues including senior management. The assessment centres include defamiliarisation exercises to take candidates out of their comfort zone and help differentiate potential from experience. Due to the current restrictions these have been adapted and are currently hosted virtually. 

The new digital recruitment programme featured cutting-edge technology, without sacrificing a human experience for candidates. The automated, time-saving process is accompanied by personal feedback to coach, support and build trusted relationships that enhanced candidate experience.


The partnership between Morrisons and Amberjack has been supremely effective. The degree apprenticeship recruitment process is now aligned to the business and the right behaviours are assessed for role success.

Attraction is targeted and Amberjack has helped Morrisons maintain application levels when other organisations have been up to a 67% drop (Amberjack Insights Data).

Candidates said that Morrisons “went the extra mile” and even those that had been unsuccessful talked about applying again. Only 7% of candidates declined offers, 33% lower than average (ISE). 100% retention has been the ultimate measure of success – this has been met.

Morrisons also made significant progress against diversity targets. A fifth of offers were made to BAME candidates and they also achieved a 52:48 male female offer ratio.

The business continues to comment on the extremely high calibre of degree apprentices.

Morrisons’ first cohort of degree apprentices graduated from the programme in November 2020 and many of them were working on the front line at the peak of the pandemic, placing them under significant pressure. All achieved their degree, one with a 2:2 and the rest with a 2:1 and First. This is testament to their hard work but also to their support network across the business.

Find out who the finalists are for the ISE Awards 2022

Read case studies from other ISE award winners

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