Milestones for the Co-op Group: Millionth new member and 2000th Funeralcare apprentice

Chief executive Steve Murrells thanked colleagues for their part in the membership expansion and called on them to continue engaging with customers

The Co-op Group has signed up its millionth new member, meeting a target it set itself when launching its new membership scheme last September.

And it beat another of the targets it has set itself – to recruit an apprentice a day at its Funeralcare division – and has welcomed its 2,000th recruit, 23-year-old Ryan Coombes, on board.

Announcing the landmark for the membership drive, chief executive Steve Murrells said on the Group’s website: “You did it – we’ve signed up our one millionth new member. The end of 2017 was our target to achieve this milestone and we’ve smashed it already. What an incredible achievement.”

The new recruits bring the total active membership to 4.5 million.

The millionth new member, identified as Shelby, 18, said: “I joined the Co-op membership after hearing about all the benefits, not only getting money back for myself but also giving to charity at the same time, which I think is amazing.”

Chief executive Steve Murrells

Mr Murrells added: “Whether you’re one of our 60 member champions who visited stores, a colleague from the support centre who chipped in through ‘Lend a Hand’, or the stars who work in our stores, funeral homes and contact centres – thank you.

He added: “Membership is what makes us different from other businesses and attracting new people to join us is so important to our success. But we’re still right at the beginning of our journey to bring the Co-op back to being all about our members.

“We need members to spend more with us so that we can do more of the things we’re known for as a Co-op: giving back to members and their communities, investing in new products and services built on co-operative values, tackling global and local issues that matter to them.”

He said the Group now wanted to see members buying more Co-op-branded products, trade across all its businesses and use their membership cards every time, and called on colleagues to encourage them to do this.

The ongoing membership drive will also see it “working with local causes to make great things happen in our communities,” said Mr Murrells, while more of the Group’s own workers will be encouraged to become members.

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Meanwhile, the Group’s Funeralcare division has taken on 40 to 50 new recruits every month in 2016, resulting in approximately 500 apprentices joining every year since launching the programme in 2013. The funeral provider is on track to recruit the same number of apprentices again this year.

The apprenticeship has attracted a diverse range of applicants over the past four years, drawing in people of all ages and from all walks of life – including classical musicians, plumbers and police officers – while 2,000th apprentice Ryan Coombes earned himself the nickname “road runner” for his speedy serving skills in his local fish and chip shop.

Ryan, from Grimsby, said: “I am thoroughly enjoying this new line of work, it’s been the best decision I’ve made. I’ve learnt so much already and within just three months as an apprentice I was promoted to a full-time funeral services operative. It’s so rewarding to be part of something so important to the community, helping people through a tough time.

‘’As I look to the future I can’t wait to develop my career with Co-op Funeralcare, working towards my goal of becoming a funeral director.’’

The programme is designed to provide those embarking on a career in funerals with high quality, industry focused and nationally recognised qualifications.

Jenny Atkinson, head of HR for Co-op Funeralcare, said: “Working within the funeral industry can be an extremely rewarding and satisfying career. Four years since launch, it’s great to see that we’re still attracting such a strong pool of applicants and we’re incredibly pleased to have welcomed our 2,000th so soon.

“Our intention has always been to provide people from all walks of life with the opportunity to develop a worthwhile career in funerals. Providing they possess compassion, empathy, excellent service and organisational skills, we can teach everything else on the job.”

Co-op Funeralcare delivers the apprenticeship in partnership with learndirect and remains the only UK national funeral director to offer an apprenticeship in Funeral Operations and Services, following its launch in 2013 incorporating a QCF Level 2 and a QCF Level 3 in Funeral Operations and Services (formerly known as NVQ).

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