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Creating social value through skills: 10 years of Retail Gold

Phil Steele, General Manager of intu Eldon Square

The retail sector is one of the biggest employers in the UK and provides many young people with entry level jobs which often lead to fantastic careers. But a great retail experience relies on excellent customer service and this can only happen with the right training for staff. 

As significant local employers, our centres already have a big social and economic impact on the communities they help to employ. And we know we can make an even bigger difference by working with our retailers to provide young people with on-the-job training that ensures they have the skills that employers are looking for. 

One way we do this is through our retail employability programme, Retail Gold; an extended schools’ work experience programme that has been delivered by charity Employers in Education in association with intu Eldon Square in Newcastle and intu Metrocentre in Gateshead for more than 10 years. It’s provided more than 350 students from schools in the north east with work placements as part of their BTEC studies, giving them access to the expertise of our retailers and hands-on work experience in our centres.

Last year, students from schools across Newcastle and Dunston attended weekly work placements at a range of employers including John Lewis, Debenhams and House of Fraiser. Students were also placed in the intu customer services team at intu Eldon Square, enjoying exactly the same level of world class training that all our staff receive throughout the UK.

One of the strengths of this programme is the long-term value it brings to all parties involved, including our retailers. For example Linsey Bunn from Debenhams in intu Eldon Square told us: "The students have come a long way since they first joined us; they are showing more confidence when dealing with customers and being able to assist them with their needs. We see them as being part of our 'Debenhams' family rather than work placement students and will sadly miss them when they leave. We will continue to support Retail Gold  in any way we can as it has not only provided the students with invaluable work experience but we also have gained possible future employees.”

The success of our Retail Gold programme in Newcastle led to it being introduced at intu Braehead near Glasgow last year, in partnership with West College Scotland and leading retail partners. And we’re now committed to rolling it out to all our branded centres as part of intu’s ongoing work to tackle social and environmental issues within the UK.

Find out more about what intu is doing to make a positive impact in our communities in our Corporate Responsibility Report 2015.

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