THE first intake of students from an innovative new training programme have graduated with flying colours.

The youngsters, all students at Swindon Academy, have been attending Retail Codex, a project instigated by The Brunel Shopping Centre, and run in partnership with Marks & Spencer and learning partner Imparta.

Over the last eight months the students have been learning about the does and don’ts of working in the retail industry.

Using classroom teaching, project work and hands-on experience the training course helps students improve their confidence, communication and customer service skills and problem solving abilities. The programme is designed to give the teenagers a much broader understanding of careers within retailing, including the often lesser recognised careers, such as marketing, shopping centre and store management and finance.

Jane Stewart, deputy general manager at The Brunel Centre who initiated the idea for Retail Codex said: “Knowing that retailers often struggle to recruit engaged and confident young people we decided to put together the Retail Codex programme. Its aim is to challenge the narrow perceptions of jobs in the retail industry and to help youngsters develop their confidence and customer service skills.”

Andrew Martin, manager of Marks & Spencer Swindon who hosted the training and arranged for the students to work on the shop floor said: “M&S were really pleased to be able to support this initiative. It’s important to us to help those in school and their parents better understand what it is like to have a career in retailing, and just how varied a career it can be.”

The students were presented with their certificate and congratulated by Jenny Groves, Chairman of Switch On to Swindon, the campaign that is highlighting the reasons why Swindon is a good place to live, work and do business.

Swindon Academy principal Ruth Robinson was at the certificate presentation to see the students graduate. She said: “What a wonderful opportunity this has been for our youngsters. This course has enabled them to receive a quality experience that will prepare them for their future careers. We are very grateful to The Brunel Centre and Marks & Spencer for involving us in this pilot scheme and hope it will continue.”