Name: Michael Karamani
Company: Tate & Lyle Sugars

Engineering Department Manager


Tate & Lyle Sugars Case Study

Tate & Lyle Sugars is part of ASR Group. We are the largest sugar cane refining business in the world. We have two sites in London, Thames Refinery, where we refine raw sugar from the all over the world in to 650 different products for the UK market such as caster, icing, brown sugar etc. and Plaistow Wharf, where we make our iconic Lyle’s Golden Syrup.


I’m the Engineering Department Manager at Plaistow Wharf and I’m responsible for all engineering operations on site for our process and packing equipment. I’m also responsible for the Apprentices we have at Plaistow Wharf. While they directly report in to the Area Maintenance Supervisor who looks after them day to day, dealing with any issues they have and allocating work and who they work with, I manage their long-term progression. The important thing for us is we are reflecting the theory they are learning at the IPS Workshop and we are able to give them some real-life tasks, which can challenge what they learn and cement what they have learned.

It’s really exciting for us to have Apprentices. We have 30 Apprentices across our two factories. We have three at the Plaistow Wharf site and I’m over the moon with all of them. Two of the Apprentices are mature apprentices who were in fact promoted and are upskilling and our latest Apprentice has just finished his A-Levels. A lot of energy goes into making Apprenticeships successful, there is a lot of commitment from us and them. Ultimately, they are our future and I feel there is no better way to learn a relatively niche industry than by learning from experience, their qualified engineering colleagues and also importantly, they are learning the fundamentals along side this at their Apprenticeship Training at the workshops with IPS Trainers. This means that when they are making decisions at work they are making them because they truly understand root cause analysis and understand why, if they’re in specific scenarios they can use their skill set to engineer out issues, instead of thinking “I saw that in a book while studying” and then trying to work out how to do it in the real world. This was one of the main reasons why Tate and Lyle Sugars supports Apprenticeships. It’s brilliant that they are learning on the job and learning the theory from their training at the same time. I really wanted to push Apprenticeships as we identified there was a skills gap in the market, a lot of the experience at our factory is close to retirement and there seems to be this big gap of a decade or two where we are struggling to find the skills we are looking for. A lot of people have their qualifications but have learned it just at college and not applied anything in the real world, so when you challenge them in the real world they struggle. Or they have learned by shadowing and sometimes that means they have learned from the experience of someone else and might have picked up bad habits, rather than really understanding the fundamentals of Engineering. With an Apprenticeship they are getting that real-life experience and learning things they cannot at college, but they are also gaining the fundamentals and they are learning about theory from their Trainers. They are gaining the building blocks to build their knowledge.

I do feel we have a moral obligation to provide Apprenticeships. We are a business that has been around for over 140 years in East London and it is really important we support the people in the local community to access opportunities with us. Our recent Apprentice is from a local school, and it’s really important to me that we open our doors to those individuals and not just to experienced people. We are investing our time to give something back and it is great to see him really shining, he’s doing a fantastic job.

I think it is important to know that Apprenticeships can also be for upskilling. We have two mature Apprentices and it allows pathways to progress. People in some roles may feel they have reached that glass ceiling and have reached the highest they can go based on their initial qualification that they achieved at a younger age, so Apprenticeships really give them the opportunity to develop and progress. The two mature Apprentices are really driven guys and they have inspired their colleagues. They have made their colleagues realise that even if they haven’t achieved what they wanted to do at school for whatever reason, personal reasons, etc, it’s almost like a second chance. We give them the opportunity to continue from where they are, but they can start developing themselves.

I initially had a recommendation about IPS from one of my Supervisors who was doing a commercial cross skilling course at IPS. We also have a Technical Training Lead in HR who did research into Apprenticeships and found IPS and so shortlisted them.

Additionally, we have several people who trained at IPS who highly recommend IPS. It’s been a learning curve getting to the successful point we’re at now, a journey, as we did work with another Training Provider beforehand and we have been fortunate the Apprentices have been patient. It’s been great working with the IPS team, a brilliant experience so far. IPS know exactly what they need to deliver, and they are crystal clear from the outset. There is a clear structure within the organisation, in terms of what the Apprenticeships look like, but also their expectations of us as the Employer and the expectations of the Apprentices. They are people who are clearly passionate about their jobs. We are really happy with our experience so far and we would definitely look at more Apprenticeships in the future.

I would without a doubt recommend Apprenticeships to other businesses, it’s the way forward. You have new younger generation that obviously benefits, but you also see the older experienced generation thrive too. They are able to share their vast amount of knowledge and experience with the Apprentices, which gives them a boost as well. The team have been really excited to have Apprentices and gain mentoring skills. It has been a very good experience for all involved.


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