Helping Young People and Small Businesses Grow

By Dianne Wainwright
Head of Operations at The Source Skills Academy

14 Jun 2017

Linking the right young people with the right businesses can be a real success story for all involved when you wrap around quality training and mentoring. This is exactly what we’re doing in Rotherham and Sheffield thanks to British Land funding.

Back in 2012, British Land saw an opportunity to support small independent retailers in recruiting apprentices, as part of wider efforts to boost Rotherham town centre and revitalise Sheffield high street. We were delighted to get help to make this happen, supporting eight apprentices and eight businesses in the first year.

Since then, 25 young people have progressed through the programme with 18 independent retailers – everything from cafés, charity shops and craft centres, to fashion outlets, market traders and a local department store. Some businesses have been involved more than once and it’s helped them grow.

What I’m proudest of though is the impact on the young people. Small retailers can often offer a more sheltered exposure to the world of work, which is important for some young people. We provide coaching and mentoring and we see the young people’s confidence really grow as they show their employers that they’re capable and gain experience and qualifications in retail and customer service. 

The feedback from retailers is also positive and many are impressed that British Land, which co-owns Meadowhall, has invested £120,000 to support small, independent businesses on the high street. However, this fits with our experience of British Land. They share the same values and principles as us and recognise the value of developing young talent and supporting the local area. 

Over time, we’ve adapted the British Land apprenticeship programme in Rotherham and Sheffield, tailoring the content for different employers, picking up their values and culture and making it relevant for individual job roles. Some apprentices have become permanent team members and others have progressed onto further opportunities, with the programme acting as a stepping stone. 

We’re excited that British Land recently launched Bright Lights, their skills and employment programme, so we’re looking forward to them doing even more in this area. 

Feedback from Rotherham and Sheffield retailers

  • Chris of Hamby’s Antiques and Hamby’s Shoes: “We have been lucky enough to have engaged two apprentices under the British Land Apprenticeship scheme. Ashley and Alysia quickly grew in confidence and became highly valued and popular members of our team. Both have moved onwards and upwards in their working life, however keep in regular contact with us. Alysia is now a trainee estate agent who called in last week to show off her new Audi and Ashley has progressed to senior sales in the motor trade. It is a lovely feeling that we have been able to be part of their personal and business journey from shy, quiet teenagers into confident, capable young adults.” 
  • Dawn of Craft Corner & The Bears Den: “Rebecca our apprentice has been a real gem, always willing to learn and a real hit with our customers. Having completed her qualification, she has recently moved on to business administration with a local training company and is missed by us all. Rebecca was such a shy girl when she started with us and her transformation has been spectacular (shy she is now not!). This has been such a rewarding experience for us we are currently hoping to find another apprenticeship ‘star’ to follow in Rebecca’s footsteps.”
  • Franca of Miele Delicatessen: “Molly is a lovely girl and fitted straight into our work ethic. Due to all our hard work, we have been incredibly busy and welcome hundreds of customers each day to our small high street premises. It has been a real bonus having our British Land apprentice help us to establish our new business in Rotherham.”
  • Sarah of Atkinsons: “Emma has been an excellent example of someone leaving school with little confidence in her own ability but with guidance and support has grown with confidence and applies herself to her role, providing excellent customer service. Atkinsons, a family business, enjoys developing younger inexperienced staff. We would have no hesitation in appointing another apprentice with The Source funded by British Land.”

Feedback from Rotherham and Sheffield apprentices

  • Ashley at Hamby’s Antiques: “When I started my apprenticeship, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do in my life. Now I have found something that I’m really good at and enjoy. I’m learning new things all the time and I come up with new ideas of my own. I love my job.”
  • Dominika at Makers Emporium: “Before starting my apprenticeship, I was very shy and found it difficult to speak to people but now my confidence has grown and I enjoy interacting with customers on a daily basis. I couldn’t have done this without the support from my manager and the opportunities I have been given through this programme.”
  • Emma at Atkinsons: “My apprenticeship has helped me gain experience of the world of work. I left school not knowing much about customer service or working in retail but this opportunity has given me the experience I needed and allowed me to develop skills I never knew I had.”

More information

The Source Skills Academy is a training and development centre set up by British Land and Sheffield City Council in 2003, next to Meadowhall.

Retailers supported through the British Land apprenticeship programme include Atkinsons, Bay Leaf Café, Bedford Guitars, Bittersweet Boutique, Caprice, Craft Corner & The Bears Den, Hamby’s Antiques, Hamby’s Shoes, Makers Emporium, Miele Delicatessen, Moor Market, Plantology, Sayas Café, Sheffield Showcase, St Luke’s Hospice Charity Shop, The Alternative Store, Whistle Stop Sweet Shop and Yella Brick Road.

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