Celebrations for first graduates from “Retail School”

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The first intake of students from an innovative new training programme have graduated with flying colours.

The youngsters, who are all students at Swindon Academy, have been attending Retail Codex, a project instigated by The Brunel Shopping Centre, and run in partnership with Marks & Spencer and learning partners Imparta.

Over the last eight months the students have been learning about the many and varied aspects of working in the retail industry. Using a mix of classroom teaching, project work and hands-on experience the training course helps students improve their confidence, communication and customer service skills and problem solving abilities, giving them a broader understanding of careers within retailing.

The programme is designed to give the teenagers a much broader understanding of careers within retailing, including the often lesser recognised careers, such as marketing, shopping centre and store management and finance.

Jane Stewart, Deputy General Manager at The Brunel Centre, initiated the idea for Retail Codex. Jane said: “Knowing that retailers often struggle to recruit engaged and confident young people we decided to put together the Retail Codex programme. Its aim is to challenge the narrow perceptions of jobs in the retail industry and to help youngsters develop their confidence and customer service skills.

“We’re absolutely delighted with this initial pilot course. We have seen the group blossom since they started in October 16. The “Dragon’s Den” style presentations they delivered to an audience must have been nerve wracking for them. They are to be congratulated. They were all full of great ideas and presented exceptionally well, with confidence and professionalism.”

Andrew Martin is Manager of Marks & Spencer Swindon who hosted the training and arranged for the students to work on the shop floor and alongside their own staff. Andrew said: “M&S were really pleased to be able to support this initiative. It’s important to us to help those in school and their parents better understand what it is like to have a career in retailing, and just how varied a career it can be. Anything that helps to challenge inaccurate perceptions of working in retail is very valuable and helps us recruit for our own Apprenticeship Scheme and our Marks & Start programme, which is helping people who face barriers getting into work.”

Nigel Webb, Imparta’s Chief Product Officer, said: “It is widely accepted that employers increasingly feel that many candidates fresh from school lack the life skills needed to transition smoothly into working life. This programme proposes to address that gap. It is very rewarding knowing that we have been able to give the students some practical transferable skills to take away into whatever career they choose.”

The students were presented with their certificate and congratulated by Jenny Groves, Chair of Switch On to Swindon, the campaign that is highlighting the reasons why Swindon is a good place to live, work and do business.

Ruth Robinson is Principal of Swindon Academy and was at the certificate presentation to see the students graduate. Ruth said: “What a wonderful opportunity this has been for our youngsters. We are very grateful to The Brunel Centre and Marks & Spencer for involving us in this pilot scheme and we very much hope that it will continue in the future so that more students are able to benefit. “

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