Business Charity Awards: Employment Scheme - Winner: Marks & Spencer with the Prince's Trust

For a company that has significantly helped a charity by offering employment, work experience, training or other support to its beneficiaries

Young people from the Prince's Trust take part in work placements
Young people from the Prince's Trust take part in work placements

What did they do?
The retailer Marks & Spencer teamed up with youth charity the Prince’s Trust to create Make Your Mark, a programme that helps disadvantaged young people who lack skills and confidence to find work.

How did they do it?
The partnership started in July 2013 with the aim of placing 1,440 young people in 100 stores around the UK. Each participant was put on a four-week programme to spend up to 37 hours a week in training or working on the shop floor. This included three days of workplace skills training and regular feedback and evaluation. About 1,500 staff acted as buddies to the trainees. Each participant also received up to six months of post-placement support from the charity. Once the young people had completed the programme, they could apply for vacancies at M&S without having to go through the recruitment process. The project became the largest employability programme that the trust has ever delivered and paved the way for similar large-scale partnerships with other employers.

Why did they win?
The project has created a bank of job-ready candidates and helped to address the issue of youth unemployment. So far, 867 participants have been offered contracts lasting three to six months with M&S, and those who were not were offered post-programme mentoring by the trust.

What did the judges say?
Pam Webb, head of the Zurich Community Trust and chair of the London Benchmarking Group, said: "It’s an excellent scheme that has become embedded in Marks & Spencer. It provides a beacon for other major retailers to follow."

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