Amarjit_One Stop Northway_apprentices

West Midlands-based Amarjit Singh has been upskilling his store team with an apprenticeship program, helping them to gain valuable expertise in the retail field, alongside helping him to grow his business in the process.

“We’ve been in retail for 32 years in May,” says One Stop franchisee Amarjit. “I’ve always had youngsters working for me, but I only got involved with apprenticeships more recently, when we joined One Stop - it made us more professional.”

Amarjit, who runs the One Stop store in Alderwood Precinct in Northway, Dudley worked with the apprenticeship provider, Lifetime Training to build a robust programme designed to meet the needs of three members of his staff and the store.

He explains: “It gives us all great pride to hand over these certificates and celebrate the work our apprentices have done – often during difficult times.”

Amarjit had previously leased out the Northway store, and when he took on the running of the store, he was keen to make a difference. “When I took it back on,  Akhil was 17 and had just started,” says Amarjit. “He was very nervous. It was his first job so he had no experience of working in retail. My tenant said ‘he won’t last’.” 

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But Amarjit didn’t let this deter him and encouraged Akhil to become an apprentice.  

“I expect high standards in my store, but I also wanted to find a way to get Akhil back into education, as he didn’t complete his A Levels. I started to look for apprenticeship schemes and was pleasantly surprised with what is available.

“Lifetime Training works with all types of industries and there are also government funds available to help get youngsters into work and back into learning. Akhil passed his first level with flying colours, so I asked him what he wanted to do next. He asked for ‘Team Leader’, so this is what he is working towards now. I’m keen to support my team and the new knowledge they bring in keeps things up to date too and maintains their interest whilst they’re working for me. It gave him a big boost of confidence. And here we are doing his level 3 apprenticeship!” 

There are a number of apprenticeship providers offering opportunities, with Lifetime Training offering the following within the retail sector:

  • Retailer Level 2

  • Retail Team Leader Level 3

  • Retail Manager Level 4

With apprenticeships now more popular than ever, with young people keen to get paid whilst they learn, there are also very positive benefits to the store, as Amarjit has discovered. Akhil is currently working on Retail Team Leader Level 3, whilst Amarjit’s son, Hardeep, and nephew, Gavin, are working towards Level 4 having completed Team Leader level 3 and are strengthening their skill set in retail management with a view to being ‘prepped and ready’ to take on another store.

John Miller, head of franchise at One Stop says: “There are so many opportunities available for franchisees as well as those who are keen to progress in the retail sector.

“We really applaud Amarjit for taking the initiative to put members of his team through these apprenticeships, which go right up to an Open University level. Akhil has been able to continue his studies within an environment where he is keen to learn and progress and he is really showing what he is capable of.

“This training means Amarjit now has the staff and experience to take on another store, which is allowing him to grow his business exactly how he wants.”

Hardeep has been working in store for five years – mainly in the back office – and Gavin, a graduate accountant was also keen to join the family business. With previous experience under their belts, they both started their apprenticeships at the higher level and are currently completing certification in Retail management (Level 4) with an interest to keep progressing.

“Nothing beats the practical side of knowledge but I’m now able to take more of a back seat in the business,” says Amarjit. “It is enabling me to spend more time with my family and focus on my property projects as I’ve got a team who can run the current store and have the confidence to look to take on another.

“We’re in the process of adding a Post Office to the store services, so we’re continuing to grow in many directions and I’m able to allow my son to lead initiatives now and look at ways to improve the business overall.

“One Stop has been fully supportive throughout the apprenticeship process and Sunil Kumar, our BDM (Business Development Manager) has offered guidance and advice allowing us to move forwards with clarity and pace. I wouldn’t hesitate to offer apprenticeships again as it has been a very rewarding experience for everyone.”

He explains that apprenticeships can incentivise younger members of the team to remain loyal to your business. “Like any youngster, if you get them interested, you get the best performance out of them,” he says. 

“You have to give the opportunity to give something back. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve taken youngsters on thinking I can make good of them and it hasn’t worked out after a month’s trial. But I’m a great believer in progression - if I can motivate somebody, I feel proud. If I can see somebody grow in the business, then why not.”