Retail Codex is a six-month project that helps young people understand the many aspects of working in a retail environment. Retail employers increasingly feel that candidates fresh from school lack the life skills needed to transition smoothly into working life. This programme addresses that gap for its pilot audience, a group of teenagers from Swindon Academy. The students will experience a series of lively interactive training modules delivered by Procter. The programme culminates in a ‘store takeover’ in Marks & Spencer, where the students try out their new skills on real customers.
Nigel Webb, Chief Product Officer for Procter and a lead in the creation of Retail Codex, said:
‘At Procter, we are always looking for the right opportunities to help communities as part of our corporate social responsibility. This project means a lot to us as we work specifically with retail companies to help them develop their people to engage with their customers. We know the importance of recruiting new staff who are young, skilled and excited about starting a career in retail.
Swindon Academy is an amazing school and the work they are doing to create opportunities for their students is second to none. For us to be involved in supporting them, with the Brunel Centre and M&S, through creating a programme that develops the next generation of retail workers is incredibly satisfying and rewarding.’
Nicola Clark, the Procter trainer delivering the programme, added, ‘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.’
The Brunel Shopping Centre
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.’
General Manager of The Brunel Centre, Kevin Gwilliam, said, ‘This programme is incredibly exciting for us; it’s an opportunity to share our enthusiasm for this diverse and rewarding career – and if we can attract some new talent into this field as a result of the programme, we will be very happy.’
November saw the launch of Retail Codex. One student attending the session said that ‘it was great to learn about all the sectors within retail and see the way the future is developing – it will give us more options’.
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, said, ‘The Retail Codex programme is important 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.’
About The Brunel Shopping Centre
The Brunel Shopping Centre occupies over half of Swindon town centre’s retail area with 550,000 square feet of retail space. It is the only covered shopping centre in the town centre area.
The Brunel Swindon has over 100 retailers, cafes and restaurants, with anchor stores of House of Fraser Outlet, Boots, Marks and Spencer and Sainsbury’s as well as a large number of local, independent stores (www.thebrunel.co.uk).