By Lakota Penny, Store Manager, Sedgefield store
I left school at 16 with few qualifications and no real clue with what I wanted to do with my life. I knew I needed to get a job, but I didn’t know how I’d be able to make a career for myself with just my GCSEs.
Luckily, at 17, I joined Co-op as a Customer Team Member – they took a chance on me even though I had little experience to show. I fell in love with Co-op very quickly and I knew this was somewhere I could make something of myself. I threw myself into my work, loving every second, and within my first year I was promoted to Team Leader.
My commitment to the job apparently didn’t go unnoticed, as I was nominated for the Level 3 Food Apprenticeship by my Store and Area Managers. Even though I thought I’d never return to education, I was extremely excited about the apprenticeship scheme as it focused on something I loved doing and something I was good at.
Whilst on the apprenticeship scheme I got involved in lots of different (and fun) things. Some of my highlights were taking part in Divisional Managing Director Peter Batt’s Apprentice Summer Sporting Challenge, and I got to make Chris Whitfield, Retail Chief Operating Officer, a winning cocktail after my final presentation. I also met several people who gave me a greater understanding of progression within Co-op, and helped me see my work as an actual career rather than just a job.
I continued to work hard throughout my apprenticeship and I was more inspired than ever. I was also promoted to Team Manager during this time!
At 21 years old and after four years at Co-op, I graduated from my apprenticeship in October last year, and I’m now a Store Manager of a Store of Excellence. I’m so incredibly proud of what I’ve achieved and how far I’ve come. I couldn’t have done this without the support, encouragement and the backing of my colleagues and managers.
As Adult Learners Week comes to a close, I want to remind everyone that you have the ability to achieve your goals, you just need to be confident and throw yourself in at the deep end. Learning on the job can feel daunting, but it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. With some hard work and determination, the sky’s the limit!
If you’d like to find out more about apprenticeships, there’s lots of information available on the apprenticeship portal on the jobs board.