It’s just not something you hear from your average Year 11 student, is it? And that’s a shame because the retail industry has much to offer, and at many levels. Plagued by image problems, it will rarely be seen as a glamorous career and yet there are many reasons why students – at whatever age or level or education – would be foolish to write it off. Here are 5 of them:
You can start building work experience early
Part time jobs in retail are commonly among the first working experiences that young people develop. The culture of weekend and shift work means that it can fit well around studies, with employers often being agreeable to longer hours during school holidays. The great thing for these young people is that they are given an early opportunity to get a feel for the industry and make contacts within it. If these students do go on to university and wish to enter the industry at a level higher up, they will find that they have already developed many of the competencies that graduate employers are asking for.
Early opportunities for management
In a world where so many employers want graduates only, this remains a career area with many entry points. Of course, in theory it is entirely possible to work your way up with no or few qualifications, and there are certainly a growing number of apprenticeship opportunities available. But there also exists a number of official school leaver programmes (aimed at A level or equivalent students) with employers such as Tesco, Marks & Spencer and Morrisons, which give the opportunity to start developing management skills at a young age. Whilst their peer group may just be graduating from university and trying to navigate the tricky and competitive graduate employment market, these particular young people could already have a couple of years of management experience under their belts.
There are a growing number of sponsored degrees
If young people do decide that university is for them, then they don’t necessarily need to take the financial knock of tuition fees. Retail employers are getting wise to the fact that they need to be doing a little more to compete with the big guns – the banks, the law firms – to attract the very best graduates. After all, a company is only as good as the people within it. Many retail employers (including Harrods and Asda) are now offering sponsored degree or sponsored foundation degree programmes, with the benefit to students not just of avoiding tuition fees but building work experience and skills at the same time. Alternatively to this, retail employers are regularly involved in providing year in industry opportunities for sandwich course students which can often make for an easier transition into the graduate job market.
Your will develop transferable skills by the bucket-load
If you do decide to change careers further down the line and, let’s face it, these days few people stick with one career for a lifetime, then retail experience will leave you well equipped for a whole host of other options. There are, of course the obvious choices. A move to Head Office could see you moving in to in human resources, finance or business strategy, or perhaps a move to a specialist retail role like buying, merchandising or logistics. But choose to leave the industry completely and it is likely that you are going to be taking an attractive mix of people and business skills with you. And this will lent nicely to a whole host of other areas.
Contrary to popular belief, you can earn lots of money
Just ask Philip Green – he’s done alright out of it! But, joking aside, your career doesn’t have to end with running the local corner shop (not that there is anything wrong with that) or even the local supermarket. Retailers are big business and these days the big salaries start at graduate level. Get yourself onto the Aldi graduate training scheme and you will earn a starting salary of £41,000 rising to a guaranteed £67,750 after just 4 years. And there is absolutely nothing mediocre about that!
It does appear that the industry is trying to change. It is recognising its image problem and trying to do something about it. But is this message filtering through to the students? It will be interesting to see how this may change over time.