American Marketer


Why luxury brands should emulate Rolls-Royce with apprenticeships for skills transfer

February 6, 2013


British automaker Rolls-Royce Motor Cars is building its future through its Apprenticeship Programme and is setting an example for other luxury brands.

The program offers Rolls-Royce the chance to invest in the future of automaking by ensuring that the required craftsmanship skills are passed on through generations. This helps Rolls-Royce secure a strong employee base as well.

“The level of craftsmanship required to build a modern Rolls-Royce Motor car is incredible,” said Oleg Satanovsky, product communications manager at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars North America, Woodcliff Lake, NJ. “Many of the required skills such as woodworking and leatherworking are no longer commonly taught.

“Thought the Apprenticeship Programme, Rolls-Royce is able to directly invest in the next generation of skilled craftsmen and women who will continue to produce our vehicles in the future,” he said.

“The apprentices work directly with and are taught by some of the most skilled people in the automotive industry, ensuring that future Rolls-Royce offerings will continue to be cutting edge in their technology, timelessly elegant in their design and impeccably constructed.”

Future automakers

Rolls-Royce initiated the program in 2006 with fifteen students ages 16 to 24 to learn the craftsmanship of the leatherworking and woodworking of the vehicles.

Today Rolls-Royce receives applications from students around the world to study in this program and it has grown to include a graduate program, a business program and industrial placements within the company.

Rolls-Royce apprentices

An apprenticeship like this can solidify a strong future workforce for the company.

“From the company’s point of view, an apprenticeship program tends to attract better employees,” said Al Ries, founder and chairman of Ries & Ries, a Roswell, GA-based marketing strategy consultancy.

“From the employee’s point of view, an apprenticeship is more than just a job,” he said. “It is a job that also provides training that can help the employee move up in the organization.”

The company could also gain future employees if the young apprentices succeed in and enjoy the program.

“Rolls-Royce is romancing the idea of working for the company,” Mr. Ries said.

“Young people are more interested in what the future might hold than in the exact details of what they might be doing in their first assignment,” he said. “Therefore, companies should develop similar programs to attract the very best employees.”

Maintaining quality

Although this apprenticeship program does not do much to sell the brand to consumers, this program will help ensure that the quality of Rolls-Royce vehicles will not diminish in the future as workers retire or leave the company.

Rolls-Royce Phantom

“Every luxury brand should be concerned about the shortage of artisans,” said Chris Ramey, president of Affluent Insights, Miami, FL. “We talk about the sales pipeline, but we often neglect the supply channel."

However, this pressure to maintain luxury manufacturing status is not just a concern with automakers, per Mr. Ramey

Luxury brands in every industry should be concerned with the future of their products and companies.

Other brands, not just in the auto industry, should look at Rolls-Royce as an industry leader in the luxury world.

“A primary responsibility for every CEO is securing the future for their product and brand,” Mr. Ramey said. “This initiative further cements Rolls-Royce's leadership position amongst an often decidedly negative business environment.”

Final take

Erin Shea, editorial assistant on Luxury Daily, New York