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An apprenticeship helped kick-start my career at Co-op

My Co-op journey began in 2015, when I was just 17 years old. I had little in the way of qualifications and no idea what I wanted to do with my life. My Grandad had always spoken fondly about his job as a Store Manager at Co-op, so I decided to apply for a job as a Customer Team Member.

A place where I could learn and grow

I quickly settled into life at Co-op. I could see this was a place where I could make something of myself. Within the first couple of months, I began working towards a Team Leader position. In 2017 thanks to a recommendation from my manager, I started my Level 3 Retail Team Leader apprenticeship.

The Level 3 apprenticeship takes 15 to 18 months to complete. You learn while you work and receive support from a dedicated coach. A benefit of an apprenticeship is that 20% of your time each week should be dedicated to your learning. Balancing my learning time and the need to maintain high standards in my store was tough at times, but the support I got from my manager and personal coach helped me to stay on track and achieve the qualification. I don’t think I could have done it without them!

A strong foundation for my Co-op career

Four years after starting at Co-op, I achieved my apprenticeship and become a Store Manager, just like my Grandad before me. During my apprenticeship, I’d developed all the skills I needed to take on a leadership role – things like coaching, communication and product marketing. This meant I had a great foundation which helped me to succeed in my Store Manager role.

Since then, I’ve successfully progressed further to become a Micro Space Planner in the Format and Innovation team. I was able to take all the skills and experiences I’d gained in the field into a role at our Head Office. I’m also extremely proud to be a Governor at the Co-op Academy school in Southfield, where I can help to make a real difference to the lives of the students in the local community.

Apprentices are the future leaders of our Co-op

As we’re celebrating National Apprenticeship Week, I cannot sing their praises enough. The best advice I can give to anyone considering an apprenticeship at Co-op is to just do it! There are so many different options available – from courses like the one I joined in retail, to degree level programmes where you’ll come away with a full honours degree without any of the costs of going to university.

I’m living, breathing proof that an apprenticeship at Co-op can help to kick start your career. I’m so proud of what I’ve achieved in such a short space of time, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds!

Lakota Penny,

Micro Space Planner

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