Saying no to the status quo: why I chose an M&S apprenticeship over university and haven't looked back!
As I advanced through my teenage years, I always knew university wasn’t for me. I wanted something more practical and hands-on. So when I left Sixth Form last year and watched all my friends move cities to the likes of Nottingham, Leeds and Manchester, I didn’t feel left out. Because I was moving to a new city too: London.
I was lucky enough to gain a place on the M&S Retail Management Apprenticeship, one of 14, from nearly 1000 applicants. I felt incredibly privileged and excited to embark on a new challenge and join a company that’s steeped in British heritage yet is going through a period of radical transformation.
Fast-forward eighteen months and I'm a few weeks into my seventh and final placement – this time at Kings Road store - armed with the invaluable experience and knowledge I've picked up from the very first day of starting at M&S. And I'm loving it.
I was thrown in at the deep end right away: working in the Clothing & Home departments at High Street Kensington and Marble Arch stores, before learning all about our food business at Finsbury Pavement, Paddington Waterside and my personal favourite - Clapham Junction store.
On the shopfloor at our impressive renewal store
I was drafted in to help at Clapham Junction on opening day and got to meet CEO Steve Rowe and Food MD Stuart Machin. They were keen to hear from those of us on the frontline with customers about how the new format was working and how our customers were reacting. It was great to get their perspective on how the work we were doing contributed to driving change across the entire Food business. And having seen my huge enthusiasm for the store and our renewal ‘test and learn’ concept, the leadership team even recommended I do my next placement there – which was music to my ears!
For anyone that doesn’t know, Clapham Junction is our second renewal store which re-opened in September after closing for a few months to receive a complete overhaul. It’s a really impressive store, complete with vertical farming (where herbs grow in-store), a water refill station, and even a hot pizza oven in the shape of a disco ball, offering tasty pizzas-to-go - great for colleagues on their lunch break! I’d definitely recommend paying the store a visit..
There has always been a lot of interest in the store - both internally and externally - so as you might expect, standards are very high. As a young apprentice, this was quite nerve-wracking for me, but I saw it as an opportunity to prove myself. I'm happy to say I passed my placement there and moved on to where I am now: Kings Road, Chelsea - another brilliant store.
Changing at pace, just like M&S..
I think the best thing about my apprenticeship is how fast-paced it is. Just as you get comfortable at one store, boom, it's time to move onto the next – and the next set of challenges. I guess you could see this as a bad thing but there really is no better way to learn about the business and build up your experience.
And given how much is going on at M&S right now, I don’t think there's a more exciting place to be in retail. The transformation programme is moving at pace and you can really feel it on the shopfloor.
Once I've completed my final placement at Kings Road store, I'll hopefully qualify as a Commercial Manager and pursue my goal of becoming Manager of an M&S Food Store.
I wonder if you can guess which one.
Grace Morris is nearing completion of M&S’ Level 4 Retail Management Apprenticeship. The course teaches apprentices every aspect of what it takes to manage an M&S store, readying them to take on the role of Commercial Manager upon successful completion of the programme. Grace is passionate about the M&S brand and has her sights set on becoming an M&S Store Manager in the next few years.