New retail partnership helps students develop employability skills

By Anita Jaynes on December 13, 2016

A new initiative, instigated by The Brunel Shopping Centre, is helping to improve the employability and life skills of students at a Swindon school.

Retail Codex is a six-month long project being delivered by learning partners Procter, supported by The Brunel Centre and Marks & Spencer who are providing guest speakers and facilities for selected students from Swindon Academy.  Focused on helping young people understand the many aspects of working in a retail environment the programme utilises a mix of classroom teaching, project work and hands on experience and has been designed to help students improve their confidence, communication skills and problem solving abilities.  Youngsters attend sessions during term-time but the programme requires them also to undertake project work and tasks at weekends, afterschool and during the holidays.

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 – and this programme proposes to address that gap for its pilot audience in Swindon.

The idea for Retail Codex came from Jane Stewart, Deputy General Manager at The Brunel Centre.  Jane said: “When people think about working in the retail world they tend to think only about working in a shop when in reality there are so many functions they can get involved in.  Earlier this year we worked with M&S to give students from Swindon Academy a taste of designing shopfront window displays and dressing them with their own creations.  This type of project can help young people understand just how varied, and valuable, all the different aspects of working in retail can be.  The pilot programme is being run with Swindon Academy but it’s hoped that, in the future, we’ll be able to offer places for students from other schools.”

Matt Hawke, Store Manager of M&S Swindon, said: “M&S are really excited about supporting this initiative. The programme helps students develop those life skills and allows them the opportunity to experience first-hand what it is like to work with customers, the public and other work colleagues.  This experience inevitably helps the youngsters improve their planning and organisational skills, creative thinking and, most importantly, their confidence.”

Nicola Clark  – the Procter trainer delivering the programme said – “this programme is very rewarding we are able to share insights and techniques from our commercial experience that the students are really embracing – it is great knowing that we can give them some really practical transferable skills to take away into whatever career they choose.”

Jane Steenstra, Business, Enterprise and Employability Consultant for Swindon Academy is delighted the programme is now underway.  Jane said: “ This is a wonderful opportunity for our young people who are receiving a rare and real quality experience to prepare them for their future careers. Comfort Gyapong a year 13 student participating in the programme explains:  “The Retail Codex programme is import to me because I want to work in the financial industry and this is a good insight into a customer facing sector. It is helping to build my confidence and demonstrate I have the appropriate employability skills. It also helps me understand how much hard work I have to put in to become successful in my future career.”

Pictured above: Staff and students of Swindon Academy during a visit to Swindon’s Brunel Shopping Centre