Sainsbury’s joins job training scheme

Sainsbury's colleagues Gill Baker and Danielle Bateman. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Sainsbury's colleagues Gill Baker and Danielle Bateman. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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One of the Capital’s biggest employers has signed up to an initiative which helps school leavers move straight in to a job.

Sainsbury’s, which has opened a superstore in Longstone, has become the latest firm to sign up to the Edinburgh Guarantee – a programme which offers job and training opportunities for youngsters.

The Longstone store has taken on 19 school leavers and will work with five secondaries, Tynecastle, Currie, Firhill, Balerno and Forrester. Pupils will be given the type of leadership courses Sainsbury’s provides to develop its managers.

The scheme comes as statistics show more than 500 young people who leave school in the Capital each year face joblessness.

Since the beginning of the economic downturn in 2008, the number of school leavers without employment or further education has risen from 4 per cent to 16 per cent. However, many employers are keen to play their part by backing the council-led scheme.

Former Currie High pupil Chris Rennie, who turned 16 on the day the store opened, has taken up a job in the retail giant’s fresh produce department.

He said: “I applied for a cafe position but on my induction day I found out I was too young because I was only 15, but I got offered a place at the fresh food department when I turned 16.

“I thought because of my age I would never get the job but I was really happy when I found out I had it.

“It can be so difficult to get a job these days when you leave school – more employers should start using the guarantee scheme.

“Now that I’ve got the job I really want to progress and maybe go on to becoming a supervisor or even a manager if I stick in.”

Sainsbury’s is the latest big name to sign up for the Edinburgh Guarantee, which has been supported by businesses including Standard Life, John Lewis, Balfour Beatty, Capital Solutions and Edinburgh University.

Danielle Bateman, 16, found about the Edinburgh Guarantee scheme through her guidance teacher at Forrester High School.

The S6 pupil from Wester Hailes is dividing her time between working on the checkouts at the store and studying for two Advanced Highers.

She said: “I was really worried it would be difficult to find a job and when I found out Sainsbury’s were looking for people I jumped at the chance.

“I don’t think it has ever been harder for young people to get experience. You’re in a Catch 22 situation because you need the experience to get a job but you need the job to get experience.

“These days, you need to prepare yourself for a lot of rejection.”

Sainsbury’s has also recruited 20 people directly from Remploy and 60 people who have been out of work for more than six months.

The jobs boost comes in the wake of the closure of Remploy factories across the UK – including one in Edinburgh – leaving 1700 disabled staff redundant at nine Scottish centres.

Follow-up studies have revealed only a small percentage has found jobs.

Craigmillar’s Blindcraft factory, which provided work for blind and disabled workers for 218 years, closed in 2011 as a result of government budget cuts despite a determined campaign to save it.

Gill Baker, 43, from Pilrig, found employment with Sainsbury’s through Remploy after suffering from a devastating hip condition which prevented her from working for 16 months.

She said: “I had septic arthritis in my hip, which meant I had to get a hip replacement.

“If I stand up for too long it can seize up so I needed to find a job which could offer me a balance – now I’m working in a petrol station kiosk so can sit down if I need to.”

Gill, who comes from a restaurant background, said: “It’s not nice being off for 20 months at a time, and you would not believe the number of jobs that I applied for.

“But when I went to Remploy they were fantastic – I’ve settled right in at Sainsbury’s.”

Marc Watson, manager at the Longstone store, said: “The Edinburgh Guarantee is a fantastic initiative and one that Sainsbury’s as a major employer in Edinburgh are delighted to be a part of.

“I am pleased to confirm that we will now also take forward the council’s Jobs, Education and Training programme, which offers works experience to school children.

“During the recruitment process for the Sainsbury’s Longstone store, I was hugely impressed by the quality of applicants and interviewees coming straight out of school.”

Councillor Frank Ross, convener of the economy committee, added: “I’m delighted that Sainsbury’s has had such a positive experience in providing jobs through the Edinburgh Guarantee and the scheme continues to go from strength to strength thanks to the support of employers like them.

“We all have a shared opportunity to give school leavers a step onto the employment ladder. That’s important for them as individuals but it’s also essential for the overall health of our local economy.

“So, I’d encourage every organisation to consider how they too could benefit by providing meaningful employment for Edinburgh’s capable and committed young people.”