By Hazel Remeika, Academies Business Partner

Our Community plan is to create fairer, stronger, more resilient communities. One area of focus is to provide opportunities for young people to develop new skills, so I’m delighted to share an exciting project we’ve been working on that does exactly that.

We’ve recently appointed twenty students from Connell Co-op College in East Manchester, on a work placement at Co-op as part of the BTEC Young Business Leaders programme. In a truly Co-op way, the Business Trainees will be fully paid on a colleague wage rather than a trainee or apprentice wage. We’re the first business in the UK to offer a paid work placement of this kind.

The Co-op Young Business Leaders programme has been designed to increase employability of young people by providing access to real work experiences, skills and training. In fact, to even secure their places on the programme, the students were all required to demonstrate a positive attitude to learning, before completing a formal application and interview process in line with our standard recruitment.

During their time with Co-op, the Business Trainees will be supported by a mentor both face to face and virtually as they get hands-on experience and learn invaluable, transferrable skills. Completing a number of rotations, they’ll be working across different areas within Co-op Business Services (CBS) including Finance, HR and Business Optimisation. They’ll also have the chance to work with our customers through our call centres and social media channels.

All of their experiences will be supported by learning and development that’s been built specifically for this course, centred around a core set of employability skills including resilience, confidence, co-operation and communication.

Lily Freeman is one of the successful Business Trainees who’s looking forward to getting started:

“As me and my friends worry about what our next steps will be, I feel relieved to be part of this and to get valuable experience. Whenever I think about my next steps after college and the long term, and all the other young people trying to make their career happen after Covid, it’s pretty daunting. The job market is going to be incredibly competitive – I knew I would need an edge.” 

Lily Freeman, Business Trainee

We’re confident this mix of learning and on the job experience is the combination to develop the Trainee’s employability both during and beyond the programme; ultimately helping them stand out from the crowd.

This is just one great example of our commitment to our academies and to our local communities. We’re also developing a Co-op Careers offer to support all of our academies and we plan to offer all of our Year 10 students access to a virtual work experience over six weeks in the summer term.

It’s important to us to help protect the social mobility of young people looking for certainty after lockdown. By creating and supporting new routes into work and to brighter futures, we’ll help play our part in preparing young people for life beyond the classroom.

If you want to know more, please contact me and I hope you’ll join me in wishing our newest colleagues the best of luck as they take their first steps on the career ladder.

Join the conversation! 3 Comments

  1. Absolutely love that this is available – I believe I had the same opportunities my career path would have been much different. Another reason why I love working for the COOP.

  2. Will any opportunities like this ever be available for colleagues? It would be nice to work with other areas business we would usually never see (food store colleagues e.g.)

    • Hi Mike. Our people team are always looking at opportunities to create career pathways across Co-op. We’ve recently introduced a new way for Food colleagues to work in our Funeralcare business, helping broaden experiences of another area of Co-op. There’s also the opportunity for colleagues to apply for roles in other areas of the Co-op too, with some of these roles not requiring previous experience including apprenticeships, open to everyone and not requiring experience.


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