One of the things I think really sets the retail industry apart is the potential for people to progress.  

One of the things I think really sets the retail industry apart is the potential for people to progress.  

Retailers are great at spotting talented hard working people, giving them a start and the building blocks they need to reach their potential. There are so many examples of this, not just at Tesco but right across the retail sector. Often the hardest part of that journey is the very first step. 

Giving people the opportunity to get on is a fundamental part of our culture at Tesco. 65,000 of my Tesco colleagues are under 25, and I’m confident that we’ll be able to help many of them go on build great careers. 

There’s never been a time when there was a greater need for us to reach beyond the confines of our business and use our experience to help others, particularly young people, who desperately need a chance. 

Last month saw the completion of a four-week pilot programme called Launch, run by Tesco and The Prince’s Trust. It’s given a group of young people from London training, hands-on experience and mentoring to help them find a job in retail.

We’re delighted with the success of this pilot - already 12 young people have been offered jobs with Tesco.  Now we’re extending the scheme to other areas with high youth unemployment such as Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow and Birmingham, with the aim of helping 500 young people over the next two years.

At Tesco, we believe that we have a responsibility to be a force for good in the communities we serve. 

Our customers care about helping young people get on; a recent survey we conducted found 74% British adults think youth unemployment is one of the most pressing issues facing Britain today. And that’s why part of our work to use our scale for good is to ensure that we help young people today take that initial step.

Launch is Tesco’s part in the ‘Movement to Work’ initiative, a group of leading employers (several from the retail sector) who’ve got together with the aim of supporting 100,000 young people into employment.  

‘Movement to Work’ is a model for how businesses can work with the not-for-profit sector, and with each other, to create opportunities for Britain’s unemployed young people. 

It shows how companies that in every other way are fierce rivals can come together and share best practise for a good cause – helping our nation’s young people and nurturing the retail talent pipeline. 

Everyone at Tesco is keenly aware of the role we play in society, helping ordinary people by selling quality products at affordable prices, but also as a provider of jobs and opportunities. 

Through our Regeneration Partnership stores we’ve seen how helping someone back into to work can change their lives. The Prince’s Trust do this every day for some of the most disadvantaged young people in our society, and it is a real privilege to work with them to help use our scale, skill and experience to support those most in need. 

My own career began on the shop floor at Tesco – I spent the morning of my first day jamming donuts and the afternoon slicing cheese. I didn’t have a degree, but I worked hard and wanted to do a great job for my customers and colleagues. 

And that didn’t go unnoticed. Since then, I’ve held a number of personnel roles in stores and head office. I became personnel director for stores and distribution and in 2007 joined the international team as international personnel director. For the past three years, I’ve been personnel director for our 330,000 colleagues in the UK and a member of the UK leadership team.

It’s a similar story to many of my colleagues on the executive team at Tesco and right across our industry, and we want to make sure it’s possible for the next generation, too.  We want to give today’s young people the opportunity to experience the world of work,  provide them with tools and training they can use in a retail job or in any career they decide to pursue. 

But more than that, we want to instil in them a belief that they too have the chance of becoming one of the industry leaders of tomorrow. 

  • Judith Nelson is UK personnel director of Tesco