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Our Prince’s Trust Team programmes have opportunities for an “employed team member” on each of our Teams. For Stafford Team 13, we were fortunate enough to partner up with Central England Co-operative. As part of this partnership, one of our participants is from a local Central England Co-operative store and he attends Team for 20 days, spread out evenly across the twelve weeks. The employed team member acts almost as a bridge between the staff, the students and their local business. They can offer the students perspective from someone who works and who has perhaps been in a similar situation to the students themselves.

The partnership with Central England Co-op has also come with opportunities for the whole Team such as workshops, store visits and employability sessions. One of the first events that they arranged for us was a “World of Work” event at their Business Support Centre in Lichfield. This visit included a quiz which was aimed at reducing common misconceptions about working in retail. It also featured a tour around the offices, to show them the different departments such as the, Marketing Team, HR, IT and |Finance. The day concluded with a session around employability and what employers say they look for in potential employees. The day was interactive and encouraged the students to look beyond working on a shop floor in retail.

After the World of Work Event, we were offered a chance to visit their Eccleshall store to see how the different job roles work together to reach a common goal. They had a fun interactive quiz about the realities of working in retail, which again surprised the students and reduced many common misconceptions. They also met the Area Manager who explained what they look for in potential employees. Students were encouraged to ask questions, and find out more about the opportunities for progression in retail.

Another session run by Central England Co-operative was around Project Management. Project Management can be quite daunting however the session was broken down into manageable chunks and linked to a theory that we already utilise on the Prince’s Trust Team Programme; plan, do, review. The session was linked to planning a ‘festival’ and gave the students the flexibility to be creative with it. This project management workshop was timed to fit into the programme to link to the Community Project. The community project can now be planned in a way that all of the student’s understand.

One of the main benefits of this partnership is the real work experience that our students have been offered. A big part of the Prince’s Trust Team programme is that students go on a two week work experience, in a career/field that they are interested in. Many of these work placements are the first real experience of the working world for these young people, so they are crucial. On Stafford Team 13, three of our students have chosen to go on work experience in their stores to see if retail could be a career they’d like to go into.

In week nine of the twelve week programme, the students work on their employability and start to think about the next steps after Team. During this week, the students work on their CVs, Cover Letters, written skills for job applications and interview skills. Interview skills can be incredibly daunting for most of our students, and they struggle to know how to answer questions effectively. Central England Co-operative are also running an interview skills sessions, and offering a mock interview based on a range of jobs they recruit for. The students will be able to choose a job description which interests them the most. By having actual jobs for the mock interview, it makes it more realistic so will benefit the students more.

Here’s what Central England Co-operative think of our partnership:
“As part of our on-going commitment to work with young people in our local communities, Central England Co-operative are delighted to be working with the Prince’s Trust on supporting one of their Team Programmes. We hope that our involvement in the Programme, through the Staffordshire Fire & Rescue Service, will help transform the lives of young people in the Stafford area. Specifically, we have designed a suite of workshops and activities to enrich the brilliant 12 week plan the Stafford Fire Station deliver – these include a project management workshop, a world of work day, mock interviews, store visits, 2 week work experience placements, and support in fundraising for their community projects. One of the Central England Co-operative’s Team Leaders, Tom Parker, has joined the Programme as an Employed Participant. Tom’s role is to help lead the group in many of the structured activities. He told us why he wanted to be involved, “As well as this being a great opportunity for my own development, I’m delighted to be part of this initiative, helping other people achieve new skills and confidence to better their lives – it truly is a rewarding and inspiring thing to be involved in””.

Working with Central England Co-operative has been a fantastic opportunity for the whole Team. This partnership has bought the students new skills and taught them how to work with other providers and the chance to see how you can progress within a company. For Central England Co-operative, it has given them the chance to support things that really matter to them, namely supporting young people in local communities.
Sian Osborn