Morrisons forced to retrain school-leavers

Morrisons forced to retrain school-leavers

The standard of school-leavers is so poor that one supermarket has sent back three-quarters of its recruits for "remedial pre-job training" before they start work.  By Harry Wallop, Telegraph retail editor.

Morrisons, Britain's fourth-biggest supermarket with 135,000 employees, found that many of its applicants in Salford, Greater Manchester, lacked even the basic skills needed to stack shelves and serve customers.

While some had a poor grasp of maths and English, others lacked simple skills such as turning up on time and making eye contact.

Norman Pickavance, the human resources director of Morrisons, said: "Many of the people were just not job-ready. They lacked a lot of confidence and social skills. It is quite clear the education system has failed them.

"Whatever the environment has been at school, it has not been conducive to instilling basic skills. It is a crying shame."

The warning will fuel concerns that schools are failing to teach the skills necessary for young Britons to find jobs, forcing firms to recruit migrant workers instead.

The number of unemployed 16-to-24-year-olds now stands above one million, with one in five people in the age group now categorised as "Neets" – not in education, employment or training.

When Morrisons drew up plans for a new store in the employment black spot of Ordsall, Salford, it promised to give jobs to local youngsters.

Of the 210 staff who will start work when the store opens tomorrow, half left school with not a single GCSE to their name.

Morrisons sent back 150 of them for three to six months of remedial training including refresher courses in literacy and numeracy.

Some learnt customer service skills at Salford College while others were sent to Create, a social enterprise where "excluded" individuals practise working in a not-for-profit café and call centre.

Garry Stott, the chairman of Create, said: "Can these people read? Yes, they can. Can they write? That's more of a challenge. With maths most people have the basic skills but they struggle with the confidence to use it."

He said the main problem was school-leavers whose parents and grandparents who had never worked and lacked the aspiration to work.

He added: "It is too simple to say it is because of the failure of the education system. It's more complex than that.

"When I left school, many of my contemporaries were kicked out of the door on Monday morning by their Mum and Dad and told to go to work. For whatever reason that is not happening."

Government figures show that in 2.5 per cent of households in north-west England, no adult has ever worked – the highest in the country after inner London.

Morrisons is not the first major employer to lament the standards of school-leavers.

Sir Terry Leahy, the former chief executive of Tesco, the country's largest private employer, said two years ago: "Sadly, despite all the money that has been spent, standards are still woefully low in too many schools.

"Employers like us are often left to pick up the pieces."

A survey of big employers six weeks ago found that thousands of young people arrive at interviews without the "vital employability skills" required by employers such as a suitable grasp of English, punctuality and a "can do" attitude.

This article was originally featured on

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

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