One Blackpool retailer is aiming to beat the high street slump and offer a future to people looking for a career in the sector.
Toyland in Birley Street is operating a volunteer retail academy, hosting work placements from a variety of schemes such as; Chance to Shine, Project Search, local main stream schools, Park Academy and the Job centre.
Students from all walks of life such as people with learning difficulties, college students, back to work adults, go to the store for four or eight weeks of training in customer service, health and safety plus basic work and life skills.
The store, celebrating its fifth anniversary this year, has just been awarded a Fair Train gold standard award in volunteer training by Blackpool council, which branch manager Tracey Clarke says her team are all very proud of.
Tracey said: “It gives us all a great sense of satisfaction and helps the staff develop their skills too, by training others.”
Elaine Ogden, assistant manager said it gave her more confidence from teaching others the skills she has learnt throughout her career. Team members Syd Sullivan, Ashley Jerome and Summer Crombleholme, agreed with Leonie Whike, senior staff member when she told us how much satisfaction she gains from seeing young people blossom and see them return to the store for a visit months later to see they have gained employment or gone onto further education thanks to their free training.
Tracey said the team also takes part in free events in store such as their science weekend and attend external events such as last month’s Horizon skills event at the Winter Gardens, where they taught basic customer service skills to 500 school children using toy tills.
Tracey said: “We have really got a lot out of it. Sometimes working in the same place you can get a little bit stagnant in your own job but doing this brings in a lot of new ideas from the students.
"These days you can’t just open your doors and hope customers will enter, you have to be part of the community offer that little bit more of a retail experience such as our free activity tables .
“We have made it our mission as a close knit team to ensure we help develop the workforce of tomorrow. We want to more stores and venues to follow suit in teaching young and older people the skills and community passion the resort needs to be the best UK resort we can be… Oh and it beats dusting the shelves!”