Midcounties Co-operative has made a fresh commitment “to helping hundreds of young people develop their careers over the next two years and beyond”.
The society says it will work through its own apprenticeship scheme, a partnership with Birmingham-based social enterprise Miss Macaroon, and with fellow co-operatives in the Bright Future Co-op, to support those struggling to find employment.
Within the society, the Leap (Learning, Earning, Achieving, Progressing) Apprenticeship programme has supported hundreds of colleagues “to develop the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed to have a successful career in their chosen sector including childcare, retail and travel”. Midcounties says that last year alone, 40 colleagues graduated from the apprenticeship programme.
Currently, there are 116 apprentices benefiting from the Leap Apprenticeship programme, working in roles including early years educators for Your Co-op Little Pioneers, managers in Your Co-op Food stores and support centre colleagues across the society.
Mia Watson, who achieved distinction in her retail team leader apprenticeship last year, said: “I’d recommend the apprenticeship to anyone who is looking to further their skills and progress in their career. The course I completed covered everything from ‘developing yourself’ to ‘legal and governance’.
“I thoroughly enjoyed it and the support I got from my trainer was truly amazing.”
The Fairer Futures programme, a new three-year scheme launched last year with Rosie Ginday, CEO of social enterprise Miss Macaroon, aims to create employment opportunities for vulnerable or long-term unemployed young adults. As well as working alongside Midcounties colleagues in-store, those on the programme receive one-to-one support, training, and work experience to help achieve their longer-term career ambitions.
Trainees are also given access to an on-site programme leader at all times, a part-time counsellor and a previous graduate of the scheme for additional support, as well as support for six months after the programme including on CV writing and interview preparation.
The programme has already seen 10 young people successfully graduate and achieve full time employment within a range of businesses, including within the Midcounties Co-operative, and is now offering 40 new vacancies for participants.
Midcounties’s chief values officer, Pete Westall, said: “The Fairer Futures programme has been a huge success for us alongside our existing programme of apprenticeships as we look to empower vulnerable young people, removing the barriers to employment.
“With youth unemployment rising, we want to provide opportunities for those looking to find jobs, helping them and us do good together to give back to our communities.”
The society is also a founding member of the Bright Future Co-op, which aims to help survivors of modern slavery and exploitation into stable, high-quality, employment. To date, the initiative has helped 84 vulnerable people into placements across the UK, with the help of 35 member organisations including Curry’s, Pilgrim’s, Speedy Services and three other co-ops – the Co-operative Group, East of England and Heart of England.
The Bright Future Co-op board has set out new targets of achieving 100 places on the programme and 50 permanent roles in 2025 across five different sectors.