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Marks & Start

Breaking down barriers to work, turning around people’s futures

Marks & Start is our successful employability scheme that helps people who are at a disadvantage, in their job hunts – whatever prejudices they deal with daily. Our programmes don’t just give people an insight into a career in retail, but also create a clear, accessible route into work.

The current format of the programme has run since 2014, supporting around 1,200 young people each year. In just three months, we placed 68% of the 350 individuals who joined us. We work with some brilliant programme partners and are humbled by the opportunity to meet such resilient and inspiring people, many of whom are now valued members of the M&S family. Together we are building a more inclusive and diverse workforce.

Supercharging the futures of young people every year

We have UK programmes taking place in our stores up and down the country and on our logistics programme at the Castle Donington Distribution Centre. Internationally, Marks & Start has changed the lives of people from some very disadvantaged backgrounds in India.

We are currently working together to shape our future programme and ensure it continues to lead the way, level the playing field for all candidates and give young people the experience and skills to improve their employment prospects.

Becoming part of the M&S family

Just this year, Jhorvis has won the Prince's Trust Rising Star Award. A huge achievement. Jhorvis, aged 24, was out of work for four years before he was able to start his career in logistics with Marks & Spencer. With support from The Prince’s Trust and delivery partners, Jhorvis received mentoring and employment skills training, which enabled him to build his confidence and regain the motivation he needed to gain employment. Jhorvis’ mum Patricia told us: “Jhorvis loves it. He enjoys being away from the city. Working is so important to Jhorvis, he is more confident and independent now. He loves keeping fit, he cycles and goes to the gym when he can and he can buy his own things. I cannot thank The Prince’s Trust and HCA enough for all you have done for me and Jhorvis. We really had no one else.

Jhorvis, Leicestershire

Becoming part of the M&S family

Jordan joined us through the Prince's Trust Scheme seven years ago when he was 18 years old. He knew how difficult getting a job could be as a college leaver. It was at the job centre he found out about the Prince’s Trust. For his first placement, he was offered a role in Culverhouse Cross store on Kidswear for four weeks. After another couple of temporary contracts including a short stint in Foods, Jordan was then offered a permanent contract on Menswear. Fast forward three years and Jordan was asked by his Manager if he would like to go forward to the Stepping into Management programme. He leapt at the chance. His dedication paid off as he was offered his first appointment shortly afterwards as Section Manager in the Ebbw Vale Outlet. Since then he has worked in other Newport stores. He now has a family of his own and is in the process of buying a house. His favourite bit about the job is that no day is the same. He loves developing his team and helping the store achieve its KPIs.

Jordan, Newport

Becoming part of the M&S family

I’d graduated from college and was looking for work to save for university. SMA [spinal muscular atrophy] deteriorates as you grow. In the last seven months, I’ve stopped walking and now use a powered wheelchair. One company invited me for an interview but cancelled the day before, saying [their office] wasn’t accessible. I heard about Marks & Start via Rog from Muscular Dystrophy UK. She became my advocate, coming with me to the job centre and getting me on the programme. I don’t know what I would have done without her. Eastleigh is quite a small store so I did a bit of everything. I learned perseverance. I was ridiculously shy and introverted and borderline agoraphobic, but I’m so much better now. I was offered a job and I’ve saved £1,000 for university already – I didn’t even have a savings account before I started. I’ve made so many friends – any excuse to go out, we do.

Aimee, Eastleigh

Becoming part of the M&S family

I’m from Pakistan and moved to the UK in 2002 because my husband is from here. When my children reached secondary school age, I wanted to work but didn’t have any experience. Then I met Micheal and Pheona from Radiant and Brighter [who provide training and support for minority ethnic and disadvantaged communities]. They explained that they worked with Marks & Spencer, which felt impossible to me, but they helped me apply for the Marks & Start programme and I got a place in July 2017. The first time I had to interact with a customer, my face was so red that I felt like I was standing on a stage, but customers liked talking to me and I’m quite good at chatting! After four weeks, I had an interview for a temporary job. I was over the moon when I got it and I’ve been permanent since April 2018. It’s changed my life. I’ve inspired people around me – my daughter used to want to be a housewife like her mum but now she wants to study and get a good job.

Farah, Glasgow Pollock

Becoming part of the M&S family

A manager from Marks & Spencer came to my school and did a presentation to launch a work experience programme. I got one of the 10 places to do a week’s work experience. The first day was nerve wracking. I’m an overthinker and worried I might say the wrong thing, but I loved meeting everyone, and talking to customers was amazing. At the end of the week, three of us were offered temporary jobs for November and December. The following April, I emailed the manager Allison telling her how much I’d loved working there and asked if there was anything I could do to come back. I went in for a chat and that was me back at M&S. I juggle working with studying English, history and biology at school as well as criminal law part time at college. My confidence and communication skills are so much better. I’m not sure I’d be where I am without the experience I’ve had at Marks & Spencer.

Megan, Glasgow Fort

Becoming part of the M&S family

After leaving school, I struggled – I didn’t know what to do next. No one will take you on without experience, but I lacked confidence and was scared to try new things. I volunteered at a charity shop to gain experience and confidence. My careers adviser told me about Marks & Start. I applied and got a placement at the St Nicholas store. I worked in the lingerie department. Everyone supported me and encouraged me to push myself. I was teamed up with a buddy called Shona, who was friendly and kind, which encouraged me to do my best. I was offered a 12-week contract in the lingerie department, building on what I learned. Then I worked in the food department in the lead-up to Christmas. It was nerve wracking and intense but, once again, everyone was supportive, especially my manager Gill. Now I’m applying for jobs. I’ve got the confidence to hand in my CV and the experience to back it up.

Rachel, Aberdeen

Becoming part of the M&S family

Being out of work for 11 years and a single mum of two, I got the opportunity to do the Marks & Start scheme. My retail skills were out of date and I jumped at the chance of getting back into work. The Marks & Start scheme helped me update those skills and build my confidence. I started as a temp over peak season at Marble Arch, gradually becoming permanent. I eventually moved to stores closer to home and from there I have not looked back. Progressing from Customer Assistant to Section Co-ordinator then Team Support Manager. I am currently on the new Developing Leaders Programme, progressing towards Team Manager. I will always be thankful that I took the chance and am able to inspire people. I have worked with amazing people who have encouraged and supported me throughout my journey at Marks & Spencer.

Shahnaz, Team Support Manager

Ready to Apply?

It might seem challenging, but Marks & Start will ease you into your programme to begin with, until your confidence rises and your skills improve. Then your efforts will feel totally worth it.