A revamped apprenticeship scheme at Midcounties Co-operative’s food division has brought 16 young people on board.
Offering training, guidance and study alongside hands-on retail experience, the 18-month programme aims to prepare apprentices for their careers with a broad range of skills and knowledge.
Learning and development manager John Street said: “Our previous apprentice schemes have seen participants fast-tracked, with some now holding management positions. We are confident this programme will leave our new recruits well-placed to follow suit.”
The scheme, promoted on the gov.uk apprenticeships website, selected the 16 trainees from 350 applicants after a two-stage screening process including a telephone assessment and face-to-face interview.
It is also helping existing workers from Midcounties stores to progress their careers in the retail sector.
New recruit Ethan Hawkins, 16, who is based at the food store in Lydney, Gloucestershire, said: “When I left school, I was looking at apprenticeships in construction, but that changed when I found the Midcounties Co-operative programme.
“I used to work part-time in a fish and chip shop and I really enjoyed customer service, so I thought maybe retail would be a good option for me. I haven’t looked back since. I’m learning a lot and the apprenticeship is one of the best things I’ve ever done.”
Also taking part is 31-year-old Ryan Pearson, an existing colleague who joined Midcounties in February.
He said: “After 15 years working as a chef, I wanted to do something different and it’s important to me to progress as quickly as I can. When my manager suggested this programme, I jumped at the chance.
“I’m now continuing to build my experience while learning on the job, and I’m excited about the opportunities this may lead to.”
Each participant has joined of a store team for the 18-month placement, with their day-to-day work supported by vocational modules taken during regular off-site training days. These cover a range of key areas, including working in a retail team, customer service, managing stock and payroll systems, security and health and safety.
Mr Street said: “It’s easy to overlook the range of responsibilities a role in retail can demand. From the people skills required for effective and friendly customer service, to admin tasks such as managing stock and finances, as well as security procedures and maintaining a safe environment, there are a number of important areas to look after.
“During the course of this programme, our key aim is to help our participants to gain real experience of these important day-to-day responsibilities in store, creating well-rounded young professionals who can become the retail leaders of the future.”
Backed by government funding, the programme is a fully accredited apprenticeship. Both new applicants and existing colleagues at the society are eligible to take part, and it will return for new applicants in 2017.