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On the one hand, the government wants small retailers to take on young people as apprentices, with details of a £1,500 support package due any time now from Skillsmart Retail. On the other, different retailers have different priorities.
For a supermarket like Tesco, with 3,000 places on its in-house apprenticeship scheme, it is about developing its people and building team spirit in its stores. It’s oldest apprentice is 67, says UK personnel director Judith Nelson.
For a discounter like Aldi, it is a great way of attracting talented people to join its company with the promise of becoming managers in the future. “There are people who want a career in retail,” says finance director Matthew Speight.
For an independent c-store operator like Rav Garcha, it is a way to build the self-esteem of his team and to get his staff delivering on their mission to make “a difference locally”. Unlike education that is designed to get a class of students to a median level, the apprenticeship scheme helps people become all they can be, says Mr Garcha, who owns four stores under the Nisa Local badge.
Michael Scott, who was the apprentice of the year in 2009, spoke at a conference in London last week and his words should motivate you to invest in your team.
At 16, I was at school and wanted to earn some money and got a four hour Saturday job working in the stock room of a shoe shop. Then I learned how to cash up and to do a refund and the manager asked me to work some Sundays.
At 17 I passed my driving test and I wanted a car and needed more money and I saw this job advertised for a supervisor at 16 hours a week. I thought that because I knew how to do a refund that I would get the job. The manager told me I had no experience. However, the person who did get the job did not last so I applied again. I had done a bit of research and suggested that I could do an apprenticeship to learn about retail. The manager said OK. I found out that retail was about so much more than doing a refund.
Working for Shoe Zone, he next worked as a “go-for” for his area manager, helping to turn around under performing branches. Then he applied for a manager job and was put in charge of his first shop. Today he manages a large branch in north London. He is 21.
What his story shows is that people that you employ may have no real idea what the purpose of retail is. You may think it is self evident but people can still get the wrong idea about what is important. The second thing it shows is talent can walk through your front door at any time. Are you looking for it? And what will you do with it when you find it?