Getting school-leavers into retail careers

  • Opinion
  • April 5, 2018
  • Maddie McClean
Getting school-leavers into retail careers

A career in retail presents a wide range of opportunity to school-leavers, yet it’s not often a consideration when they move into the workforce.

Picture it like this: on a supermarket bay full of career options, retail careers are arguably located on the right hand side of the bottom shelf, with a single-facing behind the promotional bin of criminology and occupational therapy. There are two ways for young people to find it there. They fall into a retail career, perhaps through part-time employment; or they search to find it. Retail is still perceived by many as the in-between job, but the tides are changing.

Momentum is building with increasing availability of tertiary retail studies, both through universities and other institutions, as well as opportunities for young people to test out the industry through ‘shadow a leader’ and internship programmes. These points of contact are crucial to improve the position of retail on the school-leaver’s bay of career options.

It was a day shadowing a leader in a retail support office that sparked my own genuine interest in pursuing a career in corporate retail. Before that, I’d written off a career in the corporate world, knowing that what I’d seen in movies such as The Devil Wears Prada and The Proposal certainly wasn’t for me.

The career I’m pursuing in retail truly is a great fit for both students and employers – a win-win situation. Important elements which young people tend to seek in their early careers are variety of work, a strong line of career progression, and an environment where they can learn and grow. Retail careers fulfil each of these aspects, as well as the ability to transfer between roles, departments, organisations, and even countries relatively easily – the prospects are vast. Likewise, retailers increasingly need staff who aren’t just there to make money and get to their weekend, but instead people who are passionate, service-driven, customer-focussed, and knowledgeable too which young people can become if they are pulled into the fold early.

It will take continued conscious investment to maintain this momentum around ‘retail as a career’, but the payoff really will be worth it: a new generation of passionate retailers who will eventually build on the foundations laid for them and take New Zealand retail to a new level.

Maddie McClean, 2017 graduate of Massey University’s Bachelor of Retail and Business Management. 

This story originally appeared in NZ Retail magazine issue 754 February/March 2018

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