9 March, 2017

Supporting apprentices every step of the way

You don’t have to be a school leaver to take an apprenticeship. At M&S, we offer Level 2 Retail Apprenticeships to our Customer Assistants of any age who work 30 hours a week or more in selected stores. Claire jumped at the chance to take an Apprenticeship, seeing it as an opportunity to follow a structured career path and add a new chapter to an already inspirational story.

Claire hadn’t worked for 11 years because of illness before she joined M&S as a temp on the order and collection desk in 2013, but she hasn’t looked back since. She’s worked in Kidswear, Visual Merchandising and Womenswear, loving the pace of store life and always being on the go.

“It was a proud moment when I joined M&S and I was grateful for the chance bearing in mind I lacked up-to-date experience.” Claire says. “It soon became apparent to me M&S is more than a company driven by money. People care about each other and M&S invests in individuals. I’d always loved the brand too; it’s one I grew up with and everyone trusts it. And, as I’ve discovered, if you are passionate about succeeding, want to be your best, want more out of your career, M&S will support and encourage you every step of the way.”

As someone who loves being on the shop floor, engaging with customers, helping them find what they want or just having a chat, Claire had to adjust to spending some time each week at home working on the various modules. But she has no regrets.

“I decided to apply for the Apprenticeship as I was eager to learn more about M&S as a whole,” she says. “It’s been fascinating finding out about the company, our history, how we operate, why we do what we do and where we’re going. I’ve also enjoyed learning new skills and techniques. It’s all been so fresh and interesting.”

Claire believes that the best thing about the Level 2 Retail Apprenticeship is the amount of support she’s been given.

“Managers have always taken an interest in Apprentices and our Learning Advisor gave us his mobile number and email address should we ever need his help and advice. He’s also created a Module Checklist so that we know what our priorities are and what we have to prep for. Apprentices lean on each other for support, and everyone in-store has been amazing in the way they’ve encouraged me, willingly looking over my answers if I’m not 100% sure. My Line Manager has been brilliant too in making sure that the store is covered so we can spend time off the shop floor.”

The Apprenticeship has already borne fruit for Claire as she’s been made a Section Coordinator on a fixed-term basis, with her sights fixed firmly now on a full-time role. And that’s not all.

“Taking the Apprenticeship has sent my self-confidence sky high,” she says. “I know what I’m good at and what I’m not so good at, but I’m a lot more positive now. According to my team, I’ve also become more organised. I understand policies and procedures more than I did – the more detail, the better and I’ve turned into a learning sponge!”

Claire’s experience proves age is no barrier to getting on if you’re prepared to put in the effort. And being away from the shop floor for several hours a week doesn’t take you away from the M&S family. “I love being at M&S. People are close and bond with each other. We have meals out together and celebrate birthdays,” Claire says, before adding “and if I wasn’t at M&S, where would I find the pop socks (ankle highs) I wear every day?”

Inside M&S