By Trudy Collins, Audit Manager

Over the past four years, we’ve built an exciting partnership with the University of Manchester.

Students of accounting undertake a module in their first year of university, where they learn all about Co-op – our business model, financial health and our relationship with auditors.

In turn, we invite them to join us for an open day in Angel Square, to gain a better understanding of who we are and what we do. Each year around 40 students join us, to hear senior leaders talk about their career experiences. It’s also a fantastic opportunity for them to learn about Co-op values and principles, and how we champion a better way of doing business.

We’ve been working closely with University of Manchester lecturers to keep developing this initiative and we’re delighted with the feedback so far:

Jenny Rose, Lecturer: The collaboration has considerably enhanced the experience of our students – they really value the expert feedback they receive on presentations. And they’re inspired hearing from Co-op’s senior leadership team about their own career experiences.

My colleague Sheila Horrocks and I, suggested offering students the chance to join us for a longer paid placement. This year, we’ve had four enthusiastic students join us for a four week paid placement across Internal Audit, CSC Finance, Funeralcare Finance and Retail Finance.

The placements are varied across the teams and tasks can range from carrying out audit testing, to attending meetings, supporting risk management activities and more. Students add huge value to our teams by looking at our work with fresh eyes, challenging us and encouraging us to think how we could do it better.

Equally, these placements give students the skills and experience to invest in their future careers.

The feedback from our placement students was also really promising:

Tyler Haworth-Fielding, Assistant Business Auditor, Internal Audit Team: Everyone was more than willing to share any information they could, making me feel as though I was part of the team.

Josephine Osei, Assistant Accountant, Food Finance Team: It’s been eye opening. I’ve gained an understanding of the different roles that I wasn’t necessarily aware of before the internship.

Bukky Temowo, Assistant Accountant FLP Finance: This experience has helped me consolidate what I’ve learnt at university, and will also help me when choosing my future career path.

Sophie Xu, Assistant Accountant CSC Finance: I’ve learnt a lot of practical and technical things, and the people have been so nice and supportive.

In line with our Stronger Co-op, Stronger Communities campaign, and our core values around educating young people, we really hope this partnership continues to evolve and offer greater value. And although we don’t have a graduate scheme at Co-op, we hope our students will consider us future employers – we’ve seen some real potential!