Investing in our people
The talent, hard work and enthusiasm of our people are what have made Sky a success. They're critical to our ability to keep on delivering for customers and shareholders in the future. So it's vital that we attract the best people, develop their skills and create a great place to work.
Our aim is to build a culture in which all of our 23,000 people can perform at their best and fulfil their potential. To help them to progress, we provide a wide range of opportunities for development and skills training such as our online Development Studio, which is open to all staff and provides access to a huge range of learning resources and courses. More than 240,000 e-learning courses were accessed via the Studio this year, an increase of around a quarter
on the previous year. Our leadership development programmes help to build the capability of our senior team and we sponsor a number of our people to study towards professional qualifications such as those from the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, which contributed to a total of 118,000 development days this year.
Among the benefits of working for a large and diverse company like Sky are the opportunities for our people to broaden their experience through exposure to different parts of our business. We actively encourage internal moves and job rotations to assist the development of a broader skills base and to strengthen collaboration and knowledge sharing across the company. This year, we were pleased to see a significant increase in the number of people taking advantage of a move to a new team to develop their careers within Sky.
As part of our diversity strategy, we continue to promote greater representation of women in senior positions through a range of initiatives including mentoring, networking groups and flexible working. We were proud to win the Corporate Award at the 2011 Women of the Future Awards in recognition of the opportunities and support we provide to female employees. There is always more to do to make sure our workforce reflects our community so we continue to focus on ensuring that more women and people from black, minority and ethnic groups are properly represented at Sky.
As well as developing the people who already work at Sky, we want to continue to encourage talented people to join us. Over the last year, we've created thousands of entirely new job opportunities in roles across the UK and Ireland and increased our staff numbers by 12%.
This year we increased the intake of our graduate schemes by 40% as 100 university leavers joined in placements across a wide range of disciplines, including finance, marketing and operations. As a result, Sky was once again named as one of the UK's top graduate employers by The Times. We also took on 38 apprentices in roles across our installation, customer service and broadcast operations teams.
Because we want Sky to be a great place to work, we offer a comprehensive reward and benefits package to all permanent employees, including a pension plan, healthcare cover and life assurance as well as free Sky+HD, Sky Broadband and Sky Talk. To encourage our people to make a positive difference to our communities, we give all full-time staff the opportunity to take two days of paid leave each year to volunteer for charitable work. Over the past year, many have worked with schools on projects related to our Bigger Picture initiatives in the environment, sport, the arts and schools.
We're using our partnership with British Cycling to encourage more of our own people to cycle regularly. Our workplace cycling initiatives include the ability to hire bikes free of charge, lunchtime rides around the local area and free services at our on-site bike shop. In addition, we're running our biggest ever programme of organised bike rides for staff with, for example, over 200 people joining in a ride from London to Brighton.
Among our recognition schemes, the annual Believe in Better Awards attracted a record number of nominations this year with over 3,000 people and 700 teams nominated. And we are expanding Sky Fest, our free festival for staff and their families, to more events in more cities than ever to say thank you to our people for their commitment and to ensure that as many as possible get to join in the fun.