M&S Exeter celebrates success of Marks & Start

M&S Exeter has rolled out the red carpet to celebrate the latest cohort of the Marks & Start programme with representatives from The Prince’s Trust.

Marks & Start is an employability scheme run in partnership with The Prince’s Trust designed to help create a clear, accessible route into work – in retail or elsewhere – for young people who are at a disadvantage in their job hunt.

Over the past four weeks, participants have gained valuable retail experience across eight local M&S stores across the South West, including M&S Exeter and other stores in Torbay, Plymouth, Dartmouth, Launceston, Hayle and Truro. Each person has been paired with a buddy and received on-the-job training while working across a range of departments in-store. They have also taken part in a series of employability sessions run by The Prince’s Trust, providing guidance on CV writing and applying for jobs.

Exeter resident Ahmad, a 24 year-old refugee from Afghanistan, was one of those who successfully completed the scheme and has been offered a 12-week contract with the retailer.

After arriving in the UK five months ago, Ahmad’s work coach at the Barnstaple job centre suggested he enrolled in The Prince’s Trust Marks & Start programme. It was during these four weeks of the placement that he gained his first retail experience working in the clothing department, the foodhall and backstage. Ahmad credits the Marks & Start programme for boosting his confidence and communication skills.

Commenting on his Marks & Start experience, Ahmad said: “I had only been in England for five months when I applied for Marks & Start; I didn’t speak the language or know the culture but now, at the end of the programme I feel my life has changed for the better.

“My buddy, Rachel, has been so supportive to me throughout the process, helping me create strong relationships with my colleagues and build my confidence. Marks & Start has shown me how inclusive and diverse Marks & Spencer is, and I really feel this highlights the British culture. I’m so grateful to have this opportunity to continue my role over the next three months and I look forward to seeing where it takes me.”

Launched in 2004, Marks & Start has supported more than 10,000 young people across the UK and is The Prince’s Trust largest private sector employability partner. In the past five years, over 220 young people from across the South West have been supported through the scheme.

On completion of the 12-week contract, participants may be offered a permanent role with M&S.

Hannah Torocisk, academy team manager at M&S Exeter, said: “It’s fantastic to see another group of young people complete the Marks & Start scheme and to be able to offer so many of them contracts with M&S. Everyone on the scheme worked incredibly hard, impressing colleagues – and customers – with their determination and work ethic.

“It’s such a rewarding scheme to be involved in for myself and store teams as you notice such a difference in every young person from when we first meet them at the taster day to listening to their speeches at the celebration event. Whether they decide a career in retail is for them or they’re inspired to try something new, it’s brilliant to see the difference it can make to their lives and we’re thrilled to have 14 new members of the M&S family here in the South West.”

Hollie McDerra, youth development lead for the South West at The Prince’s Trust, added: “Across the UK, many young people lack confidence and are struggling to develop the skills they need to move into work, education or training. Therefore, it’s so important that we work with partners, such as Marks and Spencer, to help young people develop the skills and experience they need to boost their self-belief and enter the world of work. It’s been fantastic to celebrate the hard work of every person on the scheme and I can’t wait to see what they achieve next.”

To learn more about the Marks & Start programme, delivered by M&S and The Prince’s Trust, visit: https://jobs.marksandspencer.com/marks-start.