Morrisons, Asda and Sainsbury’s aim to improve perception of retail as a career

Three supermarket giants are ramping up efforts to engage with school children to make them aware of the careers on offer in the retail industry.

Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s, which together employ more than 400,000 staff, have revealed they will collaborate directly with schools to rid the sector of the belief that it offers only temporary, “dead-end jobs”.

The move was praised by the British Retail Consortium and the sector’s skills council, Skillsmart Retail, as a way of engaging young people in the world of work. It comes as about one-fifth of 16- to 24-year-olds are unemployed.

Morrisons told Personnel Today it planned to send brochures to secondary schools later this year advertising the career opportunities at the supermarket. Last week, the firm also pledged to create 20,000 jobs by 2013.

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Interview with Morrisons’ HR chief

Listen to Norman Pickavance talk about the opportunities for long-term career development available in the retail sector

Norman Pickavance, group HR director, said working at Morrisons “isn’t just a job, it’s a career”.

“If young people decide that maybe going to university isn’t what they want to do, they can join us at 18 and we can progress them just as far,” he said.

Last week, Asda said it would send events co-ordinators into schools to spread the word about 15,000 week-long work experience placements for 14- 16-year-olds.

An Asda spokeswoman said: “[The programme] will open people’s eyes to the fact there is a career in retail and you can progress. At the moment, people just associate it with being in a dead-end job.”

Sainsbury’s told the magazine it would also increase the number of staff it sent into schools to talk to young people about careers in retail, but could not provide specific numbers.

Skillsmart Retail’s chief executive, Anne Seaman, said the retailers’ efforts would help improve retention rates. “One of the reasons for high churn rates is because people see retail jobs as a temporary stop gap and are not fully aware of what retail is about.”

But she urged employers to go a step further, by setting up mentoring schemes to help young people make the transition between school and work.

The average turnover rate in retail is 31% – more than double the average of 15%, the latest CBI figures have shown.

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