Getting Started in Retail

18-year-old Honey Youngman left school following AS-levels to get started in retail on the Pret A Manger School Leaver Programme. She talked to us about what she’s learned during her apprenticeship…

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Why did you decide to undertake an apprenticeship, and how did you decide to go into retail?

I wanted to gain work experience while also getting a Level 3 qualification which is equivalent to A-levels.  I felt that retail was a good transition from school and I didn’t want to do an admin role.

Are you studying for any Retail Diplomas or other qualifications during your programme? How is your company supporting you through these studies?

My School Leaver Programme is an Advanced Apprenticeship so as well as gaining a School Leaver Programme certificate I also gain the Level 3 qualification.

Does your programme involve more theoretical or practical work? Do you get to work in actual stores for example, as part of a live team, or is the programme more focused on training? What is the impact of this on your learning?

The programme is almost all practical which is great as I really have learnt on the job.  It is fully supported with courses though that develop my work skills, knowledge and experience. So far I have learnt about customer service, working in a team, dealing with money, making coffee, shift running and leading a team.

Retail is famously an industry that rewards hard work with fast career progression. Where do you see yourself working a year on from completing your school leaver programme?

I’m hoping to become a Team Leader in the not too distant future.

What is your favourite element of your school leaver programme at Pret?

I have really loved the responsibility and independence that I have gained.  I can honestly say it has been a great transition from school to work.

What skills that you learnt whilst at school have translated to retail? For example, have team work or leadership skills proven important for your training? In what ways?

I have really been able to use my communication skills and team work experience that I developed at school. 

Retail students study a wide range of skills from customer service to e-commerce and buying. Which new skill have you found most enjoyable to develop in the course of your school leaver programme so far and why?

I have loved the experience of working with so many different nationalities.  It’s brilliant to have so made so many friends from so many different countries.

What about your application do you think made you stand out as a candidate? Did you have any previous retail experience or knowledge, or did an extracurricular school activity perhaps help your application?

I did have two weeks’ work experience in an events team, but apart from that I didn’t have any work experience.  My hobbies were (and still are) music, art and travelling and I wrote about them in my application. I also wrote about my passion to achieve anything I am given to do and how creative and sociable I am; and I think this helped my application. I tried to make my application fun to read.

How does Pret  support your development  through your school leaver programme? Do you have a mentor or supervisor figure, for example? How does this work help you monitor your progress?

There is a School Leaver team to support us, mentor us and run our courses.  They keep us on track with our course work and progress; and are there to answer any questions we might have.  We also have our Manager and Leaders in our shops.  Everyone is really supportive and helpful.

How will your school leaver programme change from your first month on the scheme to your final one? Where do you hope this programme will take you?

At the start I didn’t really know where I wanted to go with my career but now I know that eventually I want to be a Manager at Pret and I think it is a realistic ambition. 

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