Co-op launches new programme offering paid work placements to BTEC students


Twenty students from Connell Co-op College in inner-city Manchester have started working at the Co-op as part of the Young Business Leaders programme – the first course of its kind in the UK to offer a paid work placement.

The two-year BTEC course offers the participating business trainees a substantial paid work placement at a time where the pandemic has impacted the future and incomes of young people across the country. The Co-op hopes the initiative will have a real impact for young people and communities in inner-city Manchester.

Co-op CEO, Steve Murrells, will today share details of the course with 100 Trust CEO’s, encouraging them to innovate and share best practice and learnings, to help protect the social mobility of young people who need certainty following lockdown.

The salary will pay in line with the Co-op’s new starter rate, offering valuable income during economic uncertainty. With unemployment for young people increasing by 13% since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic*, the programme is designed to increase employability through access to real work experiences and skills as well as training.    

Students followed a formal application and interview process, following the Co-op’s own standard recruitment process. To qualify, they needed to demonstrate good attendance and strong attitude to learning.

Their placement offers a number of rotations across different disciplines based within Co-op Business Services, including customer services, Finance, HR and Business Optimisation.

During the placement, the trainees will be supported by a mentor, virtually and face to face. They will get hands on experience dealing with customers through Co-op’s call centre and social media channels, whilst also adding input to live business critical projects.

Co-op Academies Trust CEO, Chris Tomlinson, said: “The pandemic continues to be a period of nervousness and uncertainty for a whole generation. Looking beyond their academic careers, work prospects may feel uncertain.

“This programme will give students the opportunity to join a business and become involved in work and projects with real value transferring their skills from the classroom into live situations. Helping their learning come to life. We’re hoping the income will offer them and their families some immediate support, whilst the placement gives them a clearer idea of their ambitions and helps them stand apart, as the job market becomes more competitive.

It’s another great example of the Co-op’s commitment to our academies and communities”

18-year old, Lily Freeman, one of 20 successful students from Connell enrolling on the course, said: “I felt lucky through the pandemic, to have had part time weekend work – some of my friends lost their job or had no income, despite trying hard to make money over the last year.

“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.”

Co-op CEO, Steve Murrells, said: “For the future of the economy, but also the social mobility of young people, unable to prepare for a career during Covid, schools and businesses must rethink support for life beyond the classroom. Young people with drive, determination and talent are feeling as though everything is out of their hands right now.#

“We recently created the apprenticeship levy matchmaking service that will create apprenticeships for those often overlooked and we’re proud participants in the government’s Kickstart placement programme. It’s important to us though to innovate and create new routes to work and brighter futures for those who need them.

“We’d encourage others to find new ways to offer this generation stability and prospects they need and deserve.”



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