We joined the Youth Contract Work Experience Programme to help support people to find their first steps into the world of work.

We became involved in the voluntary element of the scheme as we wanted to help break the ‘no job- no experience- no job’ cycle and believe that as a business we can provide a broad range of experiences for applicants.  This can range from the discipline of getting up and out of the house in the morning through to the skills that are taught on the shop floor in stores.

The scheme gave trainees a genuine chance to experience the world of work, learn new skills, and provided them with experience to include on their CV.

We ran a four week work placement scheme in 35 of our stores in the UK that began in October 2012.  The scheme coincided with our recruitment for the peak Christmas shopping period, allowing people on the scheme to apply for these temporary roles.

One of our stores that was involved in the scheme offered ten people the chance to join voluntarily.  As part of the scheme, candidates were made aware that if they showed drive and commitment, they would have an opportunity to be considered for a vacant job role.

Throughout the scheme, managers gave weekly feedback to candidates.

One trainee, Dave, had been out of work for over a year before joining the scheme. He is now a Visual Merchandiser on a 20 hour a week contract.

“It gave me a chance to show what I can do.  Working in retail was something completely new and I had no experience whatsoever.  I really wanted to get a job at the end so I really worked hard to make that happen,” said Dave.

Another candidate, Jenny, joined the scheme and is now working in the Childrenswear department on a 20 hour a week contract.

“It was my first opportunity to show what I can do and I was willing to try anything, I just wanted a chance.  Knowing that there was potential to get a job at the end really gave me a goal to work towards, I really wanted that contract!”

Claire joined the scheme and is now working on in the Menswear department on a 36.5 hour a week contract, and says “it was fantastic, really enjoyed it and I got a job out of it!”

For Debenhams, being part of the scheme allowed us to give something back to the local communities that we have stores in. Our managers enjoyed the opportunity to take on a coaching and mentoring role with the candidates and we were delighted to find some fantastic new staff to employ on a permanent basis in our stores.

We would like to emphasise again that everyone who has been involved in the Youth Contract Work Experience programme  has done so voluntarily.