Marks & Spencer & youth charity The Prince’s Trust revealed details about new youth employability scheme

1-7-2013 — / — Marks & Spencer (M&S) today announces details of a new youth employability scheme – Make Your Mark – which will see the retailer join forces with youth charity, The Prince’s Trust, to create over 1,400 work experience placements for 16-25 year olds.

Youth unemployment in the UK has recently reached record levels, with one in five 16-24 year olds in the labour force currently struggling to find a job. Launching tomorrow (July 1), Make Your Mark offers a training and job placement programme* designed to address the skills and experience gap that prevents young people from finding work.

Make Your Mark is inspired by Marks & Start, M&S’ successful employability scheme for people who face barriers to employment. Since 2004 it has enabled over 1,100 young people to complete placements in stores and offices across the country, with 50% gaining employment with M&S or another employer within three months. The new scheme takes this to the next level with a commitment to support even more young people.

Marc Bolland, Chief Executive at Marks & Spencer, said: “Youth unemployment has become one of today’s key social issues and we want to lead the charge for businesses to do more to tackle it head on.

“That’s why we’ve set aside 1,400 new placements for young people in our stores and have called on our suppliers and other businesses to start engaging their communities and make their own commitments to youth opportunity, using the 2% benchmark as we have.”

 Key aspects of the scheme include:

  • An eight-fold increase in the number of unemployed young people taken into work experience at M&S;
  • A four-week programme with up to 37 hours per week spent either in training or on the shop floor, including:
    • Three days of specially tailored training modules aimed at raising participants’ knowledge of the retail industry, developing workplace and life skills, including CV writing, networking and confidence building;
    • A structured in-store job training curriculum with regular feedback and evaluation provided to ensure M&S standards of service, sales and behaviours;
    • Additional, dedicated support through a workplace buddy and career coach who will help inspire, champion and provide on-the-ground assistance and training during the placement.

Tanith Dodge, HR Director at Marks & Spencer, said: “There are nearly a million young people not in employment, education or training and we risk having an entire generation missing out on their chance to show their working potential and make a contribution to society. We hope to make a real and lasting impact on the lives of many young people.  The program builds on our experiences of our employability scheme, Marks and Start, launched in 2004, which supports people to overcome significant barriers to employment.  We believe that by not investing in our future workforce now, we will only be facing a talent deficit tomorrow.”

Martina Milburn, chief executive of The Prince’s Trust, said: “There are hundreds of thousands of young people out there who are currently struggling to find a job. Youth unemployment can contribute to low self-esteem, feelings of hopelessness and even depression. Make Your Mark is set to help those young people furthest from the jobs market. We are looking forward to working with Marks & Spencer and witnessing the incredible benefits this will bring to the next generation.”

Make Your Mark – programme outline

Make Your Mark will have three intakes throughout the year at stores across the UK. It kicks off with its first intake on 1 July, with further sessions run in September and February. The programme comprises the following elements:

  • Recruitment: The Prince’s Trust will work with local referral partners to recruit applicants via criteria mutually-developed with M&S.  Applications can be made directly to The Prince’s Trust, local referral partners or through employee referrals.
  • Induction and training: M&S and The Prince’s Trust provide an initial induction course prior to placement, followed by additional training modules throughout the four weeks to hone skills developed during participants’ work experience, improve confidence and prepare them for any future job search.
  • Work experience: During the four-week programme participants complete an unpaid work experience placement in an M&S store. Regular feedback and guidance counselling will be provided via a dedicated buddy and career coach to ensure the participant is achieving M&S standards of customer service.
  • Evaluation and post-programme support: If the participant performs well and receives a satisfactory evaluation from their manager and buddy after placement, they may go straight into a vacancy if and when one becomes available. If the young person requires additional support prior to employment, or if a job vacancy isn’t available at their store, they will receive six months post-placement support with The Prince’s Trust to find an alternative outcome.

Anyone interested in opportunities with Make Your Mark or Marks & Start can visit for specific information about either programme. For suppliers looking to understand what they can do to address youth unemployment, further information can be found on the BITC website.

Marks & Start facts and figures

  • Since 2004, over 6,000 participants have taken part in Marks & Start;
  • Last year, Marks & Start offered 1,100 placements to people who face barriers to employment, a 22% increase on the previous year. Around 50% of those participants went into employment with M&S or another employer within 13 weeks;
  • 90% of participants report that Marks & Start has helped to improve their confidence and helped them in their steps to find work;
  • We work with four programme partners: 1) Prince’s Trust (young people between the ages of 16-25), 2) Remploy (people with disabilities and health conditions), 3) Business Action on Homelessness (homeless or those at risk of homelessness) and 4) Gingerbread (lone parents).
  • Marks & Start creates a more diverse and inclusive workplace – around 25% of Marks & Start participants have some sort of disability; 30% of participants are aged between 18-25;
  • Marks & Start Logistics was launched last year, offering 1,000 new roles for people with disabilities and health conditions at our new distribution centre in Castle Donington.


Youth unemployment in numbers**

  • There are 950,0000 young people currently out of work
  • One in five young people are currently struggling to find a job.
  • More than one in four unemployed young people have been out of work for more than a year.
  • The retail sector has the highest vacancy rate for all industries. For the last quarter there were 79,000 retail vacancies. 

– Ends-

Notes to editors

* The programme is targeted for anyone aged 16-25 who is not in any education or training at all or for less than 12 hours a week, and not in employment at all or in employment for less than 16 hours a week.

**Figures taken from the ONS Labour Market Statistics, June 2013.

  • Plan A is Marks & Spencer’s environmental and ethical programme which aims to make M&S the world’s most sustainable major retailer by 2015. Launched in 2007 and extended in March 2010, it takes an holistic approach to sustainability focusing on involving customers, engaging all areas of the business and tackling issues such as climate change, waste, raw materials, health and being a fair partner. To find out more about Plan A visit

About The Prince’s Trust
Youth charity The Prince’s Trust helps disadvantaged young people to get their lives on track. It supports 13 to 30 year-olds who are unemployed and those struggling at school and at risk of exclusion. Many of the young people helped by The Prince’s Trust are in or leaving care, facing issues such as homelessness or mental health problems, or they have been in trouble with the law. The Trust’s programmes give vulnerable young people the practical and financial support needed to stabilise their lives, helping develop self-esteem and skills for work. Three in four young people supported by The Prince’s Trust move into work, education or training. The Prince of Wales’s charity has helped more than 700,000 young people since 1976 and supports 100 more each day. Further information about The Prince’s Trust is available at / 0800 842 842 / / Twitter: @PrincesTrust

For further information

Christopher Kang
0208 718 1967


M&S Corporate PR
0208 718 1919


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