Covering skills in employability, such as job seeking and CV writing, and customer services, the two week programmes run from learndirect’s Walthamstow centre. Each participant on the programme learns skills specific to the way John Lewis operates and, at the end of the programme, they have the opportunity to gain full time employment as a delivery porter at the retailer’s Enfield site.
The programme is broken into two blocks:
Four days of employability training to equip candidates with job seeking skills, and to allow them to research the company and familiarise themselves briefly with the requirements for the porter role. Participants sign up with Blue Arrow, develop a CV and covering letter which helps to improve both their writing skills and their ability to complete application forms effectively. Much of the course concentrates on ensuring candidates understand the importance of maintaining professional workplace behaviour. On day four of this section candidates are interviewed by learndirect and Blue Arrow representatives to put together a final week one group which attends manual handling training on day five of the first week at the Enfield site. Those who pass the manual handling are put forward for week two.
This week starts with four days of customer service training to provide information about basic concepts, general customer-service related legislation as well as appropriate behaviour and communication when dealing with customers, introducing John Lewis expectations, particularly customer service terms used internally as well as the policies, procedures and behaviours to follow when representing the brand. This week is highly focused on the importance of appropriate behaviour and communication. Externally this includes: telephone communication; meeting and greeting; and handling difficult customers. Internal skills covered include: teamwork; planning; time-keeping; and effective communication with internal customers. On day four of the course candidates take part in customer service situation simulations (tailored to the porter role) where they have to demonstrate the skills learned. On day five candidates attend interviews at John Lewis.
All the successful interviewees are put forward for a week of training with John Lewis, helping them to gain practical experience of the job and giving them the opportunity to secure full time employment. Since it launched earlier this year the programme has led to half of the candidates (11 out of 22) securing employment. Even for those participants who are unsuccessful in getting a job can benefit from the programme – by gaining qualifications in week one, by being signed up by Blue Arrow and by improving their job searching skills.