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When I tell people I work for M&S they’re usually quite surprised that I don’t sell knickers or sandwiches, and that my whole job is about helping young unemployed people into work. I think this shows that M&S cares deeply about enhancing lives – not just by selling amazing stuff but by genuinely helping the communities we live in. 

Youth unemployment is concerning for the UK, with predicted costs of £28 billion over the next decade*, 84% of UK CEOs concerned about the availability of skills**, workforces getting older and young people lacking the skills and experience they need to get a job. Most employers recruit based on work experience yet only 30% of employers offer work experience***. This leaves young people in a difficult cycle of ‘no experience, no job, no job, no experience’. 

Movement to Work was started by a group of chief executives from some of the UK’s largest employers, and is designed to provide high-quality work experience and training to unemployed young people. Our chief executive, Marc Bolland, has been one of the driving forces behind Movement to Work since he and 14 other chief executives launched it alongside the Prime Minister in October 2013.  

I have been seconded to Movement to Work for almost a year, working with UK employers, big and small, and so far around 200 employers have joined and provided over 15,000 opportunities for young unemployed people. I work with a team of people from HSBC, Accenture, WPP, the Cabinet Office and DWP and our aim is to support 100,000 young unemployed people, helping them to take steps into employment. 

Movement to Work

There are 2 commitments that employers make to join Movement to Work. The first is to provide high quality training and work experience placements to unemployed young people, equivalent to around 1% of their UK workforce. At M&S we provide opportunities for 1400 young people per year (2% of our UK workforce). The second is to encourage their supply chains to make the same commitment and by doing this we create a ripple effect across the UK. At M&S we have done this through our food supply chain and are in the process of engaging our property, logistics and digital supply chains. 

One of the brilliant things about Movement to Work is that we are all working towards a common goal. Employers who are part of Movement to Work are happy to share resources and insight into what works and what doesn’t in their organisation. It’s rare that you get UK retailers sharing ideas with one another, or large financial institutions working together, but in Movement to Work, we know that collaboration is the best way to tackle the issue. 

Joining Movement to Work has given me a very different insight into social issues in the UK, the role of government and the vital role of businesses. When I meet young people whose lives have been transformed by completing a Movement to Work programme, I am inspired by what can be achieved when private, public and charitable sectors work together. 

Find out more about Movement to Work here. 

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*Acevo Commission on Youth Unemployment

**PWC Annual Global CEO survey

***UK Commission for Employment and Skills