M&S placement scheme to smash barriers to jobs

Marks & Spencer (M&S) has launched the UK’s biggest company-led work
experience programme.

The aim of the programme is to offer thousands of work experience placements
to people who face barriers getting a job.

Over the next three years, the ‘Marks & Start’ programme will offer
placements in M&S stores and offices to schoolchildren from disadvantaged
areas, disabled people, parents returning to work, the young unemployed, the
homeless and students who are the first in their family to enter higher
education.

The aim of these placements – which could reach 10,000 by 2007 – is to give
these individuals a taste of life in a working environment and the confidence
and ability to get a job.

Speaking at the launch in London last week, Jean Tomlin, Marks &
Spencer’s HR director, said the programme builds on the company’s positive
history in corporate social responsibility. "We are looking to create a
positive working environment for people from all walks of life," she said.

Marks & Start has also been designed to develop the skills of the
company’s own employees. Each participant will be allocated a ‘buddy’ – an
M&S employee who will act as a mentor.

"Around 1,000 of our employees will act as mentors every year and will be
trained and supported by the HR network," Tomlin said. "It will help
them to develop their own skills."

Marks & Start builds on the company’s existing commitment to offer 600
placements to homeless people. Of the 455 people who have completed this programme
so far, more than 30 per cent are now employed at M&S or elsewhere.

Tomlin acknowledged that the programme was also part of a wider scheme to
diversify the company’s workforce.

By Mike Berry

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