3 July, 2015

Marks, Make Up & Starts

Full time work as a consultant in the beauty section at Marks and Spencer in Swansea has given mum-of-one Sarah Bond her confidence back.

But the 30-year-old had to travel a rocky road first, which saw her and daughter Casey homeless.

Sarah Bond, of West Cross, received disappointing GCSE results and enrolled on a child care course in college.

Sarah then worked in the child care sector full-time for three years. However, when nine-year-old Casey was six months old, Sarah was made redundant.

This led to her claiming unemployment benefits and going back to school. After struggling to keep afloat, she found herself without a home and was forced to move back in with her parents.

"After being made redundant I had no choice but to become a full-time mum and began claiming benefits as I was out of work with a very young child," she says. "I decided to go back to school to study social work but found that I couldn't manage studying and caring for Casey and it started to go downhill from there.

"My confidence completely plummeted and I felt extremely lonely and isolated, but I was determined to get back into work."

Sarah visited Jobcentre Plus Swansea regularly and came across the Marks & Start scheme. She signed up and undertook a two-week placement in the M&S Swansea store. This resulted in a six-month contract in the lingerie department and the team were so impressed they offered Sarah a permanent role.

Two years later and Sarah has not looked back. Working in store has given her the opportunity to progress and she recently completed training to become a fully-fledged consultant in the beauty hall.

Her beauty advisor role involves giving out advice to customers on the store's range of beauty products, which includes skin care, make-up and hair products. Also, giving make up and nail trials as well as replenishing stock and maintaining sales floor standards.

"The stability of working at M&S has turned my life around," Sarah adds. "I now have a home for Casey and I to enjoy and I'm financially independent, which has had such an amazing effect on my confidence. I can't wait for the next chapter."

Sarah was 21 when she was made redundant and was a full-time mum for five years. She was made homeless and moved back with her parents four years ago. Two years later she was able to rent her own home.

M&S is to double the participation in its Marks & Start scheme. The programme is designed to help individuals with disabilities, health conditions, the young unemployed, lone parents and those tackling homelessness to gain vital employability skills. It pledges to provide work placement opportunities to 10,000 individuals who face significant barriers to employment by 2020.

The scheme has supported more than 10,000 individuals since its first intake in the 2004-05 financial year.

It works in partnership with four leading specialist partners. These include Remploy for people with disabilities; Gingerbread for lone parents; The Prince's Trust which helps young people aged 16 to 25; and Business in the Community for the homeless or those at risk of homelessness.

More than 60 per cent of participants that complete the programme gain employment with M&S or another employer within 13 weeks and over 90 per cent report that Marks & Start has improved their confidence and helped them in their steps to find work, according to the scheme.

Around 35 per cent of participants have some sort of disability and currently an average of 60 per cent of participants are aged 16-25.

This article originally appeared on South Wales Evening Post 

Inside M&S
3 July, 2015

Developing and celebrating talent in our local community

“My name is Sophie and I work as Employee Engagement Manager here at M&S. We are delighted to have successfully completed our second School Mentoring Programme with Westminster Academy, which is local to our Head Office in London. 

I set up the mentoring programme as part of our diversity and inclusion strategy, with the aim of investing in the talent of the future. It was designed to create a mutual relationship that creates benefits for the students by giving them insight into business and encourage effective career planning, whilst also supporting our employees with their own personal development.

Over the last two years we have trained over 50 M&S employees to become mentors for students in years 10-13 at Westminster Academy. The school has 1175 students aged 11-18  and is extremely diverse with over 98% of students coming from ethnic minority groups and 88% of the students having English as an additional language. 

I chose to work with Westminster Academy as they are a local school in our office community, but also due to the rich diversity of the students. This programme has been an investment from M&S in developing young, diverse talent of the future, and it has been fantastic to see some of the older students come on work experience placements in our stores, and even secure part time jobs with us! 

Throughout the course of the programme, our mentors have had 1:1 mentoring sessions with their mentees every 4-6 weeks and covered topics such as resilience and tenacity, time management, employability skills, CV writing, brand image, and how to be brilliant. During the year we have also run a Myers Briggs Type Indicator session for the mentees to look at their personality types and how that might affect the way they approach relationships, work and their future plans.  

I was delighted to recently hold a celebration event for the programme at Westminster Academy, where a number of our mentors and their mentees shared their experience of the programme and talked about how valuable the mentoring relationships had been to them – demonstrating how this programme has been a mutually beneficial partnership. Some of our mentors have already committed to continuing mentoring their student next year, and others are waiting with baited breath to see their exam results later in the summer! 

At M&S we aim to ensure everyone is offered the opportunity to achieve their full potential, realising that our differences make us stronger, thus encouraging everyone to be whoever they want to be. Not only are we responsive to the needs of our employees and customers, we also take pride in the role we play in the community through our various employability programmes, such as Marks & Start.

This article originally appeared on the M&S Corporate Blog

Inside M&S
30 June, 2015

New foodhall? Time to step up to the plate.

“I’m Derek, Store Manager at our new Foodhall in St Andrews. In the last year, we opened 62 Foodhalls and we’ve got many more in the pipeline. I’ve been at the sharp end of this expansion. In fact, St Andrews is the fourth new store opening in Scotland that I’ve been involved in.

“I suppose when M&S have identified a site for a new store they turn to me to get it off the ground because of my long experience in retail. It was back in 1976 that I joined Safeway as a Grocery Assistant and started working my way up. Thirty-nine years later I’ve still got the hunger for retail and last year M&S made me Store Manager of the Year for the Scotland North region, so I’m still doing something right!

“But the fact is, a new store opening is never down to any one individual; it really is a team effort. I work closely with other store managers and colleagues at head office to get everything ready and then it’s down to the store team when we open our doors. The great thing about M&S is that everyone is passionate about their role. People care about standards and always think ‘customer first’. And nor do we see a new M&S store as just a place to shop. When we become part of a new community we always get involved with local schools and charities.

“It’s hard work but I know how to unwind. Two grandchildren keep me busy and I love my northern soul music. And another favourite indulgence is the top crust fish pie from our new meal range – there, that’s my secret out!”

Inside M&S
15 June, 2015

Our differences make us stronger

"Hi, I’m Fiona and I’ve been with M&S for 10 years, how time flies! I work in HR and I am currently the International Employee Relations Manager for the business. This role is really varied, so I get involved in everything from complex business change programmes, writing policies to make sure we have an attractive people proposition, to working on our diversity and inclusion strategy. 

"In 2014, I launched our first women’s network, which was set up to promote the progress of women, and to provide informal mentoring and networking opportunities. This network gives my colleagues access to a range of inspirational role models, whilst also creating a forum to explore and address the career challenges women face. 

"At M&S we recognise the importance of having a diverse workforce and are committed to creating equal opportunities for everyone. This begins with our recruitment and selection procedures, and runs through the core of what we do.

"We understand that our differences make us stronger, encouraging everyone to be who they want to be. We respond to the needs of our employees and customers, taking pride in the role we play in the community through our employability programmes including Marks and Start and Make Your Mark

"As part of the diversity and inclusion strategy, I am working in my team to develop initiatives and procedures to enhance opportunity, creativity, innovation, diversity and personal development. The case for driving a culture inclusive of varied talent is well established; a diverse leadership team gives us an advantage to help place us as an employer of choice.

"We’ve invested in a number of pilot schemes, including cross business mentoring, run by the Government backed 30% Club, which aims to increase the number of women in FTSE 100 Boards. We’ve also partnered with a local school to provide 1:1 mentoring support for around 50 female students between the ages of 15 and 17. In addition, we’ve just piloted our first development programme solely for women.

"We’ve been one of the Times Top 50 Employers for Women for the last few years, which is a fantastic achievement. Our aim is to employ a workforce that reflects the diverse community we serve and maximise both personal and commercial opportunities."   

Inside M&S
15 June, 2015

A name not a number

“Hello, I’m Aysen, a Finance Manager in Group Planning & Analysis who joined M&S some seven-and-a-half years into my finance career. After graduating, I worked in audit for one of the ‘Big 4’ and then a multinational retailer. This experience convinced me that retail was definitely the sector for me and I’d heard only positive things about M&S, especially the way they look after their people and let them develop.

“First impressions count and I knew when I met people at interview that I would fit into the M&S culture and this would be a company I’d be proud to work for. The induction was very useful and well organised, too. I was given an overview of the business and met other new joiners as well as my line manager and team. This was followed by a week in store, which was very insightful and gave me a great understanding of how everything works.

“From there it’s been onwards and upwards. I’ve a great team and managers are really supportive, which helps to create a positive working environment. There’s a strong focus on career progression and everyone is encouraged to make the most of the opportunities available. M&S is also an exciting place to work. Innovation and continuous improvement are part of our DNA and I’m given the freedom to challenge current practices and bring new ideas to the table to drive efficiencies. It’s really motivating to know that I’m adding value in my role – and being noticed and valued by others for the contribution I make.”

Inside M&S


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