My first job at 16 was working in a coffee shop at a large department store. I was lucky. I had a friend who already worked there and, after a relatively short interview with the manager, I found myself with a contract to work four hours every Saturday. I loved it. I discovered that I was organised, liked hard work, I was good with people and that customer service was definitely for me. I stayed for over two years and was genuinely sad to leave. I had a good manager who pushed me to develop my skills and confidence.

In the beginning, I remember being nervous. I remember not really knowing what to expect. I remember not really understanding a lot about myself. I wasn’t sure what I was good at and what I wasn’t – but I was willing to learn. Being supported by my manager, while embarking on my own journey of self-discovery and learning what I valued, is something I will never forget. That job was the making of me.

I now work at Quality Context as the Director of Operations. Quality Context is committed to inspiring the next generation and as part of our commitment to our corporate, social responsibility practices, we’re keen to provide opportunities for young people, from school leavers, to apprenticeships, to graduate roles. This is something I am very passionate about.

With most roles, and with very few exceptions, it’s all about the person. When taking on a young person, it’s important to remember that they are a young person – they have not acquired skills and experience which in later life, they can rely on.  Getting the interview right, making them comfortable so that they can express themselves and can articulate what they have to offer, is key.

At interview, asking for examples of where a young person has experience of office work, handling cash, or working in a team or on their own to achieve a deadline, may be something they have no experience of. Alternatively, asking them about their attitude, their personality and their values, and asking them how they demonstrate that in family life, with friends and at school, will tell you a lot more. At this stage, they may only be at the beginning of their journey. Giving them a chance in a job, an opportunity to learn, might be the making of them.

In my experience, what may come across in an interview as an inexperienced young school, college or university leaver – who doesn’t really know what they want to do, or has an idea but doesn’t know how to harness it – with the right coaching and support, could be transitioned relatively quickly into a vital asset to any company.

For me, as part of sealing the deal with a young employee, it is important to explain what we expect from them and what they can expect from us. The employer will provide them with training and coaching and development in their role. In return, they will work hard, provide great service, take on new challenges and have a positive approach to change.

Supporting a young person’s growth will be returned by them helping to support your business growth. However small the contribution – helping towards the success of a project, or towards a department reaching and exceeding objectives – they can make a difference.

My first experience of hiring a school leaver is one of joy and huge pride. Hannah Reeve joined the company four years ago as an apprentice, since then has been promoted numerous times and is now an experienced and established quality professional in our Quality Team. We worked hard together to stretch and develop her skill set but her interview was memorable. She had little experience, but she was keen, eager and willing. She challenged me in the first few months, I could not give her enough to do. She was certainly hungry for work. She was an efficiency machine and a pleasure to be around. Following Hannah’s success, I’m excited to now be supporting two new apprentices and I am very much looking forward to seeing them grow and develop in their roles.

Ideally young people skill build quickly and achieve promotions and well deserved new opportunities with a company. If they do leave, they have learned a lot. The deal was fair and they will always remember the role that was the making of them and, perhaps, a manager or mentor who inspired them and believed in them.


Written by Gillian Burton