834 words approx. 4.5 minutes to read

As a business executive, it’s tempting to sit back and take the view that it’s the job of the government to educate the future workforce and the job of business to create employment.

But that’s starting to look very ‘old school’.

Every business is part of society and should have a social and not just commercial purpose to their existence. The Co-op has always thought like this. But in 2018 it’s something every business should be doing.

When it comes to education, the idea that it’s the sole responsibility of the government doesn’t make much sense. You only have to consider how the world of work has been changing in the last 25 years.

If you’re at school or university today, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll work for the same employer for 40 years and then retire. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll be doing the same job using exactly the same skills at age 50 as you did at aged 18 or 21. The one thing we know already is that our working lives will be varied and will involve regular changes of employer and the regular need for learning new skills or at least adapting existing skills.

We also know that the skills a successful business needs to remain relevant and competitive are changing too. And values and ethos will differ between businesses. At the Co-op we want colleagues who can think competitively but behave collaboratively. Most of all we want colleagues who understand that as a Co-op we exist to create value for our 4.6 million member-owners and we need to put them at the forefront of all our thinking.

To create the Co-op we want it makes sense to encourage and nurture co-operative skills and ways of thinking. We do this through our work with our Co-op Academy schools and through our Apprenticeship programme.

10,000 school children

A week ago in Salford we started sponsoring our 12th Co-op Academy School. Our other schools are in Leeds, North Manchester, Stoke-on-Trent and West Yorkshire. We look to help schools that have the greatest educational challenges in communities that need additional help to support their young people. Through our Co-op Academies we’re touching the lives of over 10,000 children. We encourage our senior managers to become school governors, we create work experience opportunities and we’re building a route into the Co-op through our apprenticeship programme.

Most importantly, we’re helping the schools to build a culture of co-operative values. In the classroom you see that coming through in how lessons are taught, how pupils relate to each other and how a sense of responsibility and independence is nurtured. When these students join us as colleagues, as they are beginning to do, they arrive with the values we believe in and enhance our workplace from day one.

Apprenticeships

Since we relaunched our apprenticeship programme in 2011 we’ve had more than 4,000 Co-op colleagues either start their working life with us or begin a new chapter in their careers. This year we hope to take on 1,000 new apprentices across our Co-op. By building up our Apprenticeship programme we’re not only teaching the skills we need as a business, we’re also ccreating a pipeline of co-op minded talent that will operate at every level of the business from our store managers, funeral directors, and insurance advisors, to our support functions, and up to Executive level.

Co-op degrees

We’re now offering our first Co-op degrees enabling apprentices to achieve their qualification debt-free and be earning a salary at the same time. We have 33 apprentices taking our Chartered Manager Degree which we’re running in partnership with Anglia Ruskin University.

And because we value our apprentices and see them as an important investment for the future, we pay them the same rate as other colleagues and give them a permanent contract.

We need to work closely with the Government to influence how the new apprenticeship business levy is operating. It’s great to have a financial structure to encourage big business to grow apprenticeships, but right now the system is too inflexible and operates differently in England than it does in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. That’s no help to a UK wide business like the Co-op.

The next generation

So we’re getting into the classroom both at school and at work because we believe any business of our size and scale and national standing has a responsibility to contribute to the education of the next generation of employees. It’s not in the interest of any business to exist in a society that’s willing to let a whole generation be left behind, or at the very least be left ill-equipped to enter adult life.

I’d go as far as saying that if you want to create a competitive advantage, if you want to offer your customers the best colleagues, and if you want those colleagues to be the greatest champions of your brand – then it’s time for your business to get into the classroom.

Pippa Wicks
Co-op Group Deputy CEO

Join the conversation! 16 Comments

  1. […] citizens (although this is an important factor), neither am I suggesting every business follows the Co-op’s lead indirectly sponsoring academies. But, businesses can offer schools and their pupils so much more than is currently the case, from […]

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  2. Love this! As boh a Co-op Member Pioneer and a home educator (one of a huge number of home edders), I am realy hoping resources will be available to us too.
    I organise lots of learning events and groups for home educating families and have found resources difficult to acquire, despite investigating widely. I’d be happy to work with you to create this if it no longer exists, or if I’m just missing it…please help me discover & roll it out? Keep up the great work.😊

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  3. Love the Co-op values and the way they do business – it really is a different way of doing business – in a good way.

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  4. DEAR PIPPA I MUST SAY AS A COOPERATIVE MEMBER I AM VERY IMPRESSED AT THE POLICY OF COOPERATIVE SCHOOLS CURRANT GOVT. POLICY WILL NOT IMPROVE ON THE EDUCATION OF OUR CHILDREN I SERVED FOR OVER TWENTY YEARS AS A SCHOOL GOVERNOR PS MY SON CHRISTOPHER WATSON HAS A BA AND A MA PLUS THE PGCE COULD A POSITION BE FOUND FOR HIM HAS HE IS OUT OF WORK HE HAS TAUGHT AT VARIOS COLLEGES HIS EMAIL chriswatson@gmail.com BEST WISHES PHILIP WATSON

    On Wed, Mar 14, 2018 at 8:00 AM, The Co-op Blog wrote:

    > Co-op posted: “As a business executive, it’s tempting to sit back and take > the view that it’s the job of the government to educate the future > workforce and the job of business to create employment. But that’s starting > to look very ‘old school’. Every business is part of” >

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  5. Hi Tom, we’ve had an IT issue at one of our depots in the south, which has affected some stores causing localised disruption. We’re very sorry that this has delayed a number of deliveries from our main depot, which is now fully operational, and we’re working hard to get products into stores as quickly as possible. Thanks ^Catherine

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  6. Hi Pippa,

    This is all excellent stuff and there is very little or nothing I would not agree with. However down in the S E Region and in Dartford my area in particular I am told that due to an I T problem at Thurrock Distribution Centre my Co-op store at Hawley Rd Dartford has very little in stock as no deliveries have been possible for several days. It must be costing our Co-op a great deal of lost trade and money. It also reflects badly on the Co-op as a business. Please get this and other basic problems like paying suppliers promptly rectified. Many Thanks. Tom

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  7. As far as the future is concerned I couldn’t agree more but first of all we have to address the present and through our intentions of addressing colleagues health and well being we are getting there. However more important in my opinion is ensuring our colleagues feel valued and respected which in turn will make them want to extol the values of the Coop. Looking after their health and well being will certainly increase staffing levels you can take a horse to water but you can’t make it
    drink. Let our first priority be making our existing colleagues proud to be members and employees of the Coop and let THEM vote to say they believe the Coop is the best UK retail employer.

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  8. continued…The article should have highlighted the importance of Co-op pedagogy which does not require a change in legal status. In addition more attention should have been given to how the salience of the Community can be used in Education to contribute to improving standards. A UK wide approach could have potential to practically demonstrate the future use of the Co-ops 1% good cause scheme.

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  9. You do not address the central challenge of long term poor funding settlements for schools and why teacher recruitment and turnover is so high. I fail to see how business funding/involvement addresses these central issues other than through the taxation.

    Devolved countries would disagree with your analysis. Are you advocating for the UK or just England?

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  10. Thanks for this incredibly relevant blog…. the work our teams are doing in Angel Square and up and down the country demonstrate a real Co-op difference of which we can all be proud.

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  11. What a lovely Co-oppy © blog, totally delivers the fifth principle, Education, Training and Information. I am so proud the Co-op Group is involved in schools, that it inspires colleagues at work, both existing and new colleagues, through training like Back to being Co-op and especially welcoming apprentices. Then the information, sharing with other businesses and the wider public the notion of co-operative education. As a Governor of the Co-operative College I hope that soon we will be able to add to the work of the Group through the Co-operative University we are aiming to create. Wouldn’t it be brilliant if students from the Co-op Academies, and the over 800 Co-op schools across England and the rest of the UK had the opportunity, and choice, to attend a Co-op University.
    Totally agree that we need to work on the complexity of educational systems across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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  12. I think it is wonderful the Co-op are offering apprenticeships and educative degrees free of charge, this of course means those on low incomes are not excluded. I think one of the best ways to learn a job is as an apprentice, and having a contract with wages whilst one is learning, assists in make living and learning simultaneously sustainable.

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Co-op Academies Trust, Co-op Leaders' Blogs, Communities locally in the UK, Pippa's Blog