Apprenticeships: Good for People, Good for Business & Good for the Future
“My name is Hazel and I’m responsible attraction and recruitment for all our Future Talent programmes at Marks & Spencer. I’m here today to talk to you about something very important to us all as a company: apprenticeships.
“Each year, National Apprenticeship Week brings together employers and apprentices from across the country to celebrate the importance of apprenticeships to people, businesses and communities. But why are they so important?
“Employers are increasingly worried about finding and holding on to quality, skilled individuals. At the same time young people leaving school are worried about their next move. For some, gaining real world working experience is more important than going to university. What’s more, for others, full-time study might not be an option or they might feel they’re not ready to do it yet.
“Apprenticeships are a brilliant alternative that allow employers to bring fresh new people in, nurture their skills and shape them to fit the needs of the business. It’s proven that apprentices are the best way to build our future workforce and bring on more dedicated people who will make a positive impact on our business. On the other hand apprenticeships give individuals the opportunity to earn while they learn. Not only that but there are many other benefits, like learning new skills, meeting new people, and gaining the confidence and capabilities that come with working with those who are older and more knowledgeable than you.
“That’s why at M&S we have invested a lot of time and thought in the apprenticeship opportunities we offer and we take our responsibilities towards young people seriously. An M&S Apprenticeship is designed to give you the best of both worlds. Our programmes develop the skills needed to forge an amazing long-term career with one of the UK’s favourite retailers, as well as to gain a nationally recognised qualification – and, of course, earn good money while doing it.
“We have a range of external apprenticeships on offer. This year we welcome our 2018 intake onto our longstanding Level 4 Retail Management Apprenticeship, as well as on our programmes in Engineering, Data Analysis and for the first time this year, our Level 7 Solicitor Apprenticeship. We’ve also gone the extra mile and created an internal apprenticeship route for Level 2 Customer Assistants and Level 3 Section Managers who really want to advance their career.
“Through these all of us at M&S hope to give aspiring new talent a fast-track to an outstanding and very happy career with us, as well as to ensure that one day we’ll be able to hand over the future of our business to a passionate, highly skilled and dedicated workforce.”
Interested? Explore our apprenticeship opportunities today and join us in building a successful and bright future for our business and for each other.Inside M&S
St David’s Day at M&S
David is an M&S veteran, having worked in many of our stores over the last 20 years, and in a variety of different roles.
“I’ve grown up with Marks & Spencer as many of my family members have worked for the company over the years. So I’ve always felt the need to be part of such a formidable company. Marks & Spencer is, and always will be in my view, an iconic British brand.”
David’s progress through the company was supported not only by our learning and development programme, but by the mentorship of other managers over the years.
“I’ve been very lucky over the years to have been inspired with valuable advice and regular feedback on my progress. It helped me to think differently about my leadership style.”
One of the best things about working at M&S is the buzz that happens around key dates in the calendar, be it Christmas, Easter or Valentine’s. And in stores across the region, everyone’s looking forward to promoting the very best of Wales this St David’s Day. It’s just another way for the team to make every moment special for customers, and to showcase some fantastic regional products.
“We proudly wear a daffodil, and many of our male colleagues will wear a leek. Days like this are important to our heritage.”
But what does David have to say to those thinking of joining us?
“If you’re passionate about working for such an iconic British brand, and thrive on leading a team within retail, M&S has all the tools to support you.”
So get your daffodils on and sample some of our fantastic Welsh produce. And if you’re also called David, try asking for a free pint in the pub later.
Find out more about our opportunities here.Inside M&S
CELEBRATING THE BEST OF WALES
Matt’s been at M&S for over 4 years. Having studied Business Management at university, he decided to get some work experience with us before graduation, and never looked back.
Llandudno is a high street store with a wide range of customers, many of them regulars. It’s a quality that Matt thinks really helps his branch stand out. And the team can’t wait to get started on the St David’s Day celebrations, with plenty of competitions and tastings to look forward to.
“The more fun colleagues are having, the better the service being delivered to customers. This year, we’ll be promoting some of our locally sourced products, like Welsh cakes from Village Bakery, or beers from Conwy Brewery.”
And what of the rivalry between the English and Welsh?
“Driving competitions between Welsh and English stores works really well for us, particularly during the Six Nations Championship. It not only generates a fun atmosphere but drives sales for the stores too.”
National rivalries aside though, there is a shared culture at M&S that unites everyone. For Matt, it means doing what is right for both customers and colleagues.
“It’s the knowledge that you are fully supported by the business, and have everything you need to become high-performing and successful at whatever you do.”
So what does Matt say to those looking to join M&S?
“Get ready to work at a fast pace, keep the customer your number one priority, and make people your focus.”
But the main priority for St David’s Day will be judging the bake off competition. After all, those welsh cakes aren’t going to eat themselves.
Find out more about our opportunities here.Inside M&S
Meet Tara, Head of Design (Childrenswear)
Creativity is something we try to prosper at M&S. Hear from Tara, Head of Design for Childrenswear and how she finds her inspiration -be it social media or travelling the world. Hear her story.Inside M&S
CELEBRATING CHINESE NEW YEAR WITH LUCY
M&S was always top of Lucy’s career wish list. She’s our Senior Buyer for Global Meals. It was our reputation for being first to market with food innovations and renown for food in general that inspired her interest. In her view, we’d established ourselves as the creative leaders of UK food retailing. Today, she makes sure our Chinese, Taste, Indian and Italian dishes are worthy of her high praise.
My buying career began at another leading supermarket; I was their toy buyer originally. I moved to foods because I wanted to try something new and that was it – I was hooked. I focused on desserts to begin with and my first project was actually enhancing a range so it was closer to what M&S was doing!
I love a good takeaway, so my current role suits me perfectly. It’s the best area as far as working with exciting, exotic flavours go. I’m lucky to have a close-knit team to support me and they make every day great fun. My Product Developer, Technologist and I work on new product ideas, as well as improvements to existing lines while it’s my role to make sure we deliver the best deal possible for the customer which means a point of difference worthy of M&S at an affordable price. That’s always my goal – amazing without costing the earth. This means the team and I have to make some careful choices.
We have high hopes for this Chinese New Year. Our year-on-year sales were up 14% last year and our volume equated to 2% of the population tucking into one of our Chinese ready meals. That’s big. It’s ambitious but we’re aiming for an increase this year – and our new product is storming it. Salt & Pepper Chicken launched last week. It’s a real guilty pleasure – so moreish!
We lead the way in terms of quality and first-to-market products. In my experience, other retailers spend most of their development efforts trying to copy us. Which is flattering but also means we have to be evolving constantly to stay ahead. It’s quality that makes the difference; that’s why they want to get as close to our standard as possible. We jealously guard this value. We will never let our customers down – even when there are fierce economic challenges.
Taking a product from concept to shelf is a huge effort. We have to consider strategy, supplier submissions, price negotiation, internal blind tasting panels with staff, artwork and factory trials. Our aim is to become more agile which means getting good ideas to our customers sooner. We sign off the new product in June and start stock planning by line with our suppliers in the autumn. In the four weeks before Christmas, we have weekly calls to check we’re geared up for high-volume sales. Making sure we have sufficient stock for this major peak takes meticulous planning from our factories.
There are very few brands that have the same heritage as M&S. It’s built on looking forward, on always being first. The challenge is to maintain the standard. But we’re inspired to give it our all by our customers – they have such a personal connection to us; everyone seems to have a personal story relation to the brand. Mine is the first taste of pizza courtesy of M&S. Chilli beef deep pan pizza was a family treat every Saturday. My brother still asks me if I can bring it back into the range.
It’s been a great career. This is what I set out to do after university. My creative side has meant that I’ve always worked in very own-label dominated areas. My pre-M&S career was useful to; it gave me the exposure to different approaches. Working to set up an own-label convenience brand from scratch has been one of my biggest challenges to date and taught me a lot about areas beyond buying. We’re big on offering learning opportunities that take you beyond your core role. When I joined, I was blown away by the effort we put into this.
What can I say, I love my job and where I work. It’s open, friendly and fun. We’re evolving right now and change can be hard work. But it’s change for the better so I’m excited about it. Working in this business has taken my interest in food to a whole new level. A lot of the time when I go out for dinner, I end up discussing the food and how it’s been made. It never gets in the way of enjoying it though.Inside M&S
Celebrating Chinese New Year with Sophia
Food is Sophia’s passion. She chose to indulge it at M&S because she’s always seen our food as the best quality and most exciting out there. This is the story of how she became one of our buyers and why Edamame Dim Sum is the best thing since sliced bread.
My current role as buyer for Pizza, Pasta, Chilled Breads and Snacking sits within the Global Meals team. But, to understand how I got there, it’s probably best we start from the beginning.
Originally, I’d gone to university to study Chemistry. It wasn’t really for me. I remember cheering myself after some long and pretty miserable stints in the laboratory by treating myself to a dinner of Moules Mariniere and skinny fries from the big M&S in Newcastle. Switching to Food Science and Nutrition was definitely the right thing to do. It’s led to me doing a job that I love.
My first year at M&S was spent on the Graduate Food Buying Programme in the Produce team, focusing on fruit. Coming straight from uni, I was a bit nervous and not too sure what to expect. I needn’t have worried. The teams I’ve worked with have been great and I’ve visited three countries in two years. My next move was to Global Meals and six months later, I was a fully fledged Food Buyer.
My team is close; I work with my Product Developer and Technologist and, together, we aim for innovative, good value products that hit the mark with customers. This means staying on top of trends and the market, as well as delivering our much-loved core favourites.
Authenticity matters. One of our pizza ranges uses a unique sourdough and Italian flour and is baked in a wood-fired oven for that unmistakable charring and flavour. While our fresh pasta ranges are all made in Verona by a manufacturer who shares our passion.
Chinese New Year is a busy and exciting time for our category. It’s a calendar event where our customers look to us for a meal solution – and we don’t disappoint. Careful planning and excellent supplier relationships means we can offer our banquet deal at £10 – which means we can compete with takeaway prices. We have some new launches too. For me, Edamame Dim Sum is the star, it stands out in the marketplace. Plus, it’s vegan.
Events and special occasions are huge trading opportunities for us. We always aim to deliver value and inspiration. It starts with our insight into what customers want. With this in place, we make sure our supplier can handle volume and logistics. It takes weeks for us to become aligned but we pride ourselves on getting everything right to the point.
This year, we’ve celebrated National Pizza Day with support from Social Media and 3-for-£10 promotions – and we’re busy working on offers for the World Cup and National Curry Week. One of the things I love about M&S is the integrity of process and product. It’s not an easy message to articulate to customers but it’s one of the reasons we’re so well loved – and trusted. Yes, we’re a business but it’s one that thrives on putting the customer at its heart. We ask ourselves what they would want – so, in a way, they always have the final say.Inside M&S
From pub landlord to expert analyst
I had run pubs since leaving college and ended up owning and running my own. Ultimately, I ended up selling that business. Which meant I had to find myself a new job.
M&S were advertising in the local paper for customer advisers. What intrigued me was they were looking for people with hospitality service experience. So I took up a temporary contract, answering phones over Christmas in the contact centre in Chester. I discovered that I really enjoyed it, so when I was asked to stay on I was more than happy to.
Since then I have worked on lots of different teams. Every time I was asked if I wanted to try something new, I would say yes. It was a great way to get a wide knowledge of the contact centre. I then started to look at what else I could do. My manager at the time was great at helping identify what roles were available and the best way of getting that role. I progressed from being an adviser, to being a coach, then a senior adviser and now my current role of analyst.
My current job is to analyse why our customers contact us and what they are saying. Our contact centres handle 11 million contacts a year and there are all sorts of reasons for these contacts. People often assume customer services is just about complaints, but most customers just want to find that dress they have seen in the paper or want to know when the next Dine In is on.
I use hi-tech voice and text recognition systems to analyse these contacts and provide insight to different areas of the business. As an example, the food team might like to know how customers are reacting to our Dine In and other food offers.
Our customers are the best source of what we are doing right and what we can do better. By being able to listen to what they are saying is invaluable to the different areas of the business.
The impressive thing is how cutting edge we are with the technology we use. The speech analytics is a new area, but M&S has been one of the first companies in the UK to use this technology.
For me it’s been great to take something new and untested, that M&S were confident enough to spend a lot of money on. They gave it to me and my team to play with. Now we’re getting great insight from it, learning new technical skills for ourselves and providing the ways to make real change across the business.
If you’re flexible and adaptable and willing to challenge the norm, this is an exceptional place to be. To explore opportunities in our Chester contact centre, click here.
BEING SOCIAL WITH OUR CUSTOMERS
Yasmin is a Social Media Advisor and works for our customer services team based in Chester. She’d spent a number of years job-hopping and travelling around the United States before finally deciding to put some roots down and focus on her career. And M&S proved to be the perfect choice.
Yasmin’s work in social media involves helping customers with any complaints or queries that they might have. Which could be anything from the names of Percy Pig’s friends to the carbon footprint of our food.
She’s our front line for customer suggestions and feedback, making sure it’s shared with the relevant teams so we can keep introducing great new lines. And part of having the right answers is knowing the right people. So for Yasmin, maintaining relationships with everyone from the food team and chairman’s office to our technologists and buyers, is of vital importance.
But what’s probably the most surprising thing about her role at M&S is getting to send gifts out to customers. “We’re always happy and friendly, and sometimes we like to have a little fun too, which our customers really appreciate.”
This attitude is one of the things that Yasmin loves most about her job, and it reflects the team as a whole, which for her is like one big family.
As for making every moment special, Yasmin proves there are plenty of opportunities on social media to do so:
“A customer once shared with me how much her autistic son loved M&S, to the extent that he would collect all our bags and photograph the store whenever he was near one. He was even on local radio telling everyone what he likes about M&S. So I arranged for his local store to treat him to a ‘backstage’ experience and a special lunch for him and his family.”
All that great work didn’t go unnoticed either. Yasmin was recently nominated for, and won, one of our department awards in recognition of her efforts. But it’s the M&S heritage, and the story of how it grew from humble beginnings to a global company, that inspired her to get there. “It’s really inspiring to know how far you can get with hard work.”
Starting out as a part time temporary evening advisor on phones and emails, Yasmin quickly progressed to a full time role and helped build the web chat team from scratch. She never imagined her department to be so lively, diverse or fun, either.
But for Yasmin, what really makes working at M&S different to anywhere else is the attention and focus on people, both customers and employees. That feeling not only of making customers happy, but of also being supported in your own career development.
“M&S really focus on the wellbeing of their staff. They want us to be happy and to look forward to coming to work each day.”
So what does it take to succeed at M&S, according to Yasmin?
“Anyone who works hard. If you’re putting everything into your role, you’ll get just as much back”.
For more information on our opportunities, click here.Inside M&S
STUDENTS GO BEHIND THE SCENES
To gain a more in-depth understanding of the graduate opportunities at M&S, Huddersfield University students immersed themselves in the world of M&S.
“It was really good to learn about the range of graduate schemes available and it was a good opportunity to talk to graduates who had completed the process.” In addition to a variety of activities, M&S colleagues, who’d joined as graduates, gave presentations on their experience. “All of the people were extremely passionate and interesting to listen and talk to. Mike, the Director of Sustainable Business, gave a motivating and encouraging talk about his job, work experience, and his life at M&S.”
For many of the students, sustainability was a substantial highlight. “The whole experience was remarkable, and the talk from Mike was icing on the cake. I also learned what goes on behind the scenes within M&S: M&S’ sustainable and eco-friendly approach to everything they do and what makes this great company stand out.” Students even discovered that M&S’ sustainability heritage stretches further than they imagined, “I didn’t know that M&S was the first store that started charging money for plastic bags!”
Overall, the students had a wonderful day learning about the ins and outs of what makes a company like us tick. Now that they’ve been given a taster to what our graduate programmes entail, we hope to see them back again soon!