Work Inspiration Case Study: Woolworths

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1 Work Inspiration Case Study: Woolworths 1. Pilot Name and Location There have been two pilot programs carried out by Woolworths in the southern suburbs of Adelaide, the first at the Colonnades Shopping Centre store and the second at the Marion Shopping Centre store. 2. Lead Employers and their Purpose The lead employer is Woolworths and on both occasions the store manager has been the key contact person. Their purpose was to make their recruitment pipeline more effective, and also offer the referred young people an opportunity to gain work experience that could lead to paid employment. Store managers and staff on the supermarket floor were keen to support any young person who had a real interest in working at Woolworths. The Company is a large employer of young people and it continues to meet the challenge of a high turnover rate of staff. The contact person at the Marion store is Nicole Mackey - For more information about the Colonnades pilot, contact Ms Sandie Holmes CRS Australia (as the store manager has left the company). Sandie can be ed on 3. Students and Schools Involved Six young people aged between 16 and 18, who had been disaffected from traditional school for more than one year participated in pilot 1, although two dropped out early. All six were challenged by either anxiety and/or learning difficulties, however they were engaged in alternative education and being supported by CRS Australia, who serves people with a disability or health condition to find work. There was a real sense that this group of young people had become somewhat sceptical about the value of work experience. Some had been in up to six placements over the last two years providers were looking for anything to engage them in some form of beyond the classroom learning. The second pilot involved four similar young people, aged between 16 and20, who were referred by the youth connections provider Workskil. Three young people were still enrolled at school, but were school refusers. Both pilots were seeking to support teenagers who were considered to be very much at risk not only with reference to their transitions, but also with respect to their emotional wellbeing. The Partnership Broker of this region, Community Partnerships at Work, were able to connect with the youth support services and Woolworths so the young people could be engaged. 4. Partnership Brokers and Evaluator The two pilots have been supported and documented by the Partnership Brokers from the Community Partnerships at Work organisation. Key contact persons are Julieann Moyle (pilot 1) and Dannii Armfield (pilot 2) The evaluation results are based upon survey returns from eight young people, two youth service providers, rather than a school teacher, the feedback from the Marion store manager of Woolworths, and the comments of the two Partnership Brokers. The circumstances of the two pilots and the nature of the participants have made it difficult for all sources to offer feedback. However a clear picture emerges from both follow-up phone interviews, as well as the available data. Founding partners 1

2 5. Pilot Summary The October 2012 pilot was presented to the young people as a big ask, with the reward of paid employment. The store manager challenged the young people to participate for 80 hours: 20 hours pw over 4 weeks, in a department of the store which could then employ them. In a sense the experience became a try and test placement for a job. The March 2013 pilot was for two weeks only, and the four students were able to visit a range of departments and interview staff about their careers, including the store manager. The second pilot sought to progress the Work Inspiration by making the three Work Inspiration insights more explicit, however the student evaluations of both pilots indicated that the career development learning outcomes of Work Inspiration were achieved by a very at risk cohort of young people. In the second pilot, students interviewed and presented to staff, the first group covered the insights through a continuous flow of informal conversations everyday, co-worker interactions laced with care and support from their fellow employees. 6. Key Successes and Success Factors The eight student evaluations reveal that the young people enjoyed meeting employees, learning how the store and a department operated, and felt that they had been given the opportunity to learn new things and be complimented for any achievement. The best thing was that I was given a chance to prove what I could do, I loved the work and the team were really nice. Given their low levels of confidence and their high levels of anxiety and insecurity, this acceptance was highly valued. The first group strongly felt that they had been accepted as a co-worker, rather than perceived as an add-on work experience kid. Treated like an adult, yet supported like a new person on the block, the students felt valued and important. Being treated like an adult, not sticking out as the work experience kid. The student evaluations of Pilot 1 showed that all four students who completed and evaluated the program agreed or especially strongly agreed that they had learnt to think about their career, to be inspired by the range of options, learnt how careers can develop and that they would recommend their Work Inspiration pilot over traditional work experience. Pilot 2 students placed a 70% or better rating upon the same learning outcomes approximately 15% lower than pilot 1 but still high, especially for the target group. The two case managers from the two youth service providers (one for each pilot) gave the success of the program a rating of between % for achieving student outcomes regarding career planning, inspiration about options and the Work Inspiration contribution to career development in schools. They strongly felt that the collaborative and supportive approach between their students and the employees enabled the young people to interact, develop and grow and gain skills and employability for the retail industry. The CRS manager states A real world Work Inspiration Founding partners 2

3 program provides candidates with a meaningful role. Young people stated that in normal work experience placements, they were tolerated by employees, and we felt like they were seen as an inconvenience rather than an asset. Whilst the two Woolworths store managers were pleased with the learning and recruitment outcomes for four of the ten participants, they were concerned about the true value of the program to Woolworths, unless the student was truly interested in a job at their store. They could see the benefit of informal dialogue preceded by some briefing/coaching of staff, but were not concerned about the value of more explicit, even if informal, interviews and presentations. This employer perspective is worthy of consideration, as student evaluations were positive. In particularly concrete terms, four of the group of ten very at risk young people are still employees of Woolworths and are highly valued by their workmates and supervisors. The pilots have also introduced a number of school staff dealing with at risk students and youth service providers to Work Inspiration. According to the Partnership Broker who supported the second pilot, there is a groundswell of interest in the program amongst schools, providers and possibly local government. However, finding employees who want to take the lead is still paramount. This interest is not specific to the at risk group, but all ability levels, as the southern suburbs of Adelaide see a need to re-work work experience. 7. Key Learnings For next time: local application With respect to such a target group, it is vital that referral of participants to Woolworths focus upon young people who want a job in retail, rather than seek a broader career development opportunity. This is a concept not always relevant to their hierarchy of needs. They also need a special and supportive process to be competitive even in jobs that the vast majority of year 10 to 12 students can access without that same process; there are thousands of young casual workers/ students who are employed at Woolworths. This particular group needed acceptance and continuous praise and encouragement in work, to feel that they were capable of developing an employment future. In regards to students using Woolworths in Marion to seek a learning experience that may or may not lead to employment at the store, the store would need to carefully assess whether it has the capacity or even desire to resource time and support activity. Employees being available for interviews and receiving presentations, time to organise rotation and visits to various sections, and time and energy to evaluate the learning outcomes of students are vital to this more mainstream cohort of students. This may or may not be the position of Woolworths as a company, but the view of the Marion store manager is that such resource is not generally accessible. 3

4 The long term future of Work Inspiration: national The test and try model of work experience assumes there is a paid job at the end. In the Woolworths pilot, this was the case, given their high turnover and the number of casual positions. Whether 80 hours, as was in pilot 1, is necessary and even industrially ethical, is a key point for consideration. However the employment emphasis laid down by the store manager and supported by the youth service provider has generated significant gains for those young participants who are now satisfied employees at Woolworths, as the case study documenter was informed recently, by the youth service provider. It would be helpful to contact the other two students who completed Work Inspiration, as well as the two dropouts, and see their views on such matters before one came to any final conclusions. This two phased pilot will prompt the thinking of the national partners in regards to meeting the needs of the most at risk it may or may not challenge the more explicit approach that has proven to be so useful in the student experience interactions of all the other pilots. In a real sense, the young people involved in these two phased pilots no longer saw themselves as a student, but rather as an unemployed worker or jobseeker transitioning into paid work. They wanted a job, more than career exploration or exposure or development. 8. Special Feature The two Woolworths pilots have engaged a particularly at risk group of young people. Feedback suggests that it has offered a very positive engagement and employability tool for at least six of the ten participants. They were at risk of not only successful transitions, but emotional wellbeing and acceptance in the adult world. The implicit rather than explicit application to the Three Insights still produced certain key learning outcomes. The young people gained their learning through co-worker chats rather than more explicit student and employee career conversations. The Work Inspiration campaign, and in particular the national partner The Smith Family, is keen to give access to Work Inspiration to those young people who are school refusers, who most need it here is a pilot that targeted accordingly. We can learn from their approach and find new ways, for example subtle prompts, and coaching tips for employees to aid and support the quality of these co-worker chats. Founding partners 4

5 There is a strong view held by the youth service provider that the two or even three employed graduates of Work Inspiration pilot 1 at Woolworths, would now be ready and able to make a presentation about their learnings and in a sense be an advocate for the way the Three Insights were incorporated within the Woolworths pilot. They now have the confidence to reflect upon, and share their experiences. It is worth noting that the participants in pilot 1 expressed a work experience fatigue, yet their evaluations strongly valued their Work Inspiration experience. This is perhaps unsurprising, as all four student evaluations for pilot 1 agreed or strongly agreed that they would recommend Work Inspiration over traditional work experience. They did not view Work Inspiration as another traditional placement they saw it as a means, or a pathway to nurture them into a real job. They were more concerned with employability rather than career development. Rather than feeling like a student add-on, or simply being tolerated they felt they were treated as an adult who contributed to a team. 9. Recommendations to National Partners The Work Inspiration partners should explore the more implicit approach to hands-on tasks and career conversations modelled by this two phased pilot. This approach may need to be accompanied by a set of resources and support mechanisms such as the subtle coaching methods, and ways for employees to affirm the young people through co-worker chats that came across naturally as they worked together but often only in a nurturing work environment. The ethics of the 20 to 80 hour program of work should be explored deeply. If it is a valuable step for a particular disadvantaged target group to take, how can any propensity for exploitation be reduced e.g. ensuring a back-payment or professional development reward being accorded to the ex-work Inspiration participant, who has now been a worker at Woolworths for six months! Explore with Woolworths if they feel that they can resource this Work Inspiration vehicle that supports young people at risk in the workplace. 10. Reflecting Upon the Evaluation It was the Partnership Brokers and the writer of the evaluation report that sought to make the second Woolworths pilot more accountable, and by implication, more explicit, to the Three Insights of Work Inspiration. Based upon the survey returns, reflections and the learnings gained in preparing the case study, it may be appropriate to take a different tack how can the implicit approach be facilitated for a particular target group that wants to see themselves as co-workers, rather than schools students engaged in a work experience or career development program. 5

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