Tesco seeks young, diverse talent in recruitment drive

BUSINESSES have an important role to play in supporting young talent into employment following the pandemic.

They can help by opening up opportunities and building skills for youth from all backgrounds and walks of life, regardless of whether they have previous experience or not.

It’s a message that runs through the heart of the latest recruitment drive by Tesco that kicks off this month, aiming to provide work for young people right across the country, from permanent roles to apprenticeships, graduate and internship opportunities.

It’s a welcome move from one of the biggest employers in the UK, especially as young people have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Official figures showing that more than half of job losses during the first year of the Covid crisis were among the under-25s.

In addition, new research from The Social Market Foundation, supported by Tesco, found that people from disadvantaged backgrounds have been hardest hit and feel the least confident entering the workplace.

To help turn things around, Tesco has committed to helping 45,000 young people – whatever their background – build employability skills and jumpstart their careers over the next year.

Unique opportunities

One way it is doing this is through its Business Diversity internship. This ten-week programme is aimed at undergraduates in their penultimate year of studies, from ethnic minority, LGBTQ+, socially or economically disadvantaged backgrounds, and people with disabilities.

It’s a paid programme that creates opportunities for diverse young people across across many areas of the business to build vital work experience and skills, from product development to operations and people. No previous work experience is necessary.

Emma Taylor, Tesco’s UK and Ireland people director, says: “There’s something for everybody at Tesco. Whether you’ve been to university or not, and regardless of your experience, you have plenty to offer and there’s a range of opportunities to help you find the path that suits you best.”

Some of the opportunities will lead to full-time jobs, while others offer valuable work experience to help young people progress in their careers.

As a former Tesco graduate herself, Emma adds: “We’ve focused on attracting more diverse candidates, and we’ve also deliberately created opportunities to support young people.

“It is all about building skills and confidence and providing transferable experiences that will either lead to opportunities at Tesco or help young people be better prepared to progress in their careers, wherever they choose to do this.”“We welcome as diverse a range of colleagues as possible, including background, experience and ethnicity. We will continue to find ways to do this, for example, through our Business Diversity internship and our mentoring programmes.”

She stresses that diversity of thought, perspective and leadership makes the company stronger.

Rise to the occasion

One person who has benefited from the Business Diversity internship programme is Phoebe Oberoi, 20.

“It’s an amazing experience,” she says.

“As a woman from an ethnic minority background – my dad was born in Kenya and my mum was born in Manchester – I have faced challenges growing up.

“Naturally, I was worried when applying for internships that this could be the case again. But from the start, I felt that Tesco embraced what made me unique. Instantly this put me at ease, and I felt like I had an equal opportunity in securing the job.

“The only thing I was being judged for was my ability to perform on the day, and not because of my race or gender.

“Genuinely, I did not expect to enjoy this Tesco internship as much as I have. I have had the best ten weeks working with the plant-based and Free From food buying teams. I met suppliers and helped to introduce new products to the plant-based ranges – it’s been one of the coolest, character-forming, fun experiences I have ever had, and I can’t recommend it enough.

“As an intern, I feel I have been trusted and valued, and I’ve been given so much responsibility and autonomy to make my own decisions. That’s typical of the way Tesco do things – they trust you to get on with things and you gain a lot of responsibility and experience early on.

“The way I look at life has been transformed, and I have learnt so much.

“I also now know first-hand, given the scale and investment Tesco has placed in diversity, that its internship programme is not just a tick-box exercise. I truly believe it is a cornerstone of the company’s strategy and I look forward to helping Tesco progress with it.”

Double down

Aliyah Awoye has not just benefited from Tesco’s Business Diversity internship, but also the graduate programme.

Aliyah, 22, says: “I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I graduated from the University of Sheffield with a degree in law and Spanish, so I attended lots of graduate events looking for a company where I could develop and grow. One of those events was an insight day with Tesco and it really stood out to me. We met recent graduates who worked for Tesco, which was great as I could ask questions. Afterwards I applied for the internship straight away.”

She cut her teeth in the firm’s global mobility team during her internship, which she completed in August. Aliyah says: “As the only intern in the team, I worked across three different projects and had a lot of independence. My colleagues were very accepting of my ideas.

Aliyah’s success on the internship earned her a place on the Tesco Business Graduate programme. Her current role in procurement at the company’s Welwyn Garden City HQ is part of the graduate programme, where she is using skills she learnt in her law degree to negotiate contracts.

“Reading the job description about the role, I thought: ‘This is me!’ It aligns with my skills and my degree and I’m more than excited. I think it will be a really good role for me.”

Aliyah will move to another role next year to give her a breadth of business experience during the two-year programme.

Aliyah was worried that her background could hinder her chances of getting a good job and a place on the graduate scheme.

“My university research paper was on equality in the workplace,” Aliyah recalls. “The statistics gave me a shock. No matter how well we do at university, we don’t necessarily get jobs as quickly as white people, even with the same grades.

“It was quite scary, but it also motivated me. I’m really appreciative that Tesco is taking the initiative to give young people who don’t have the same opportunities as others, the opportunity to have an internship.

“I recently met a woman of colour who isn’t directly in my team and she reached out to me and offered to be my mentor for the Graduate programme, which is great.”

As for her future ambitions, the sky’s the limit. “I want to be a leader, 100 per cent,” Aliyah says. “Generally, there aren’t many people who look like me at board level, so that’s something I’m striving towards. I have felt underestimated before, but the flip side of that is that I’ve always been driven and determined to prove myself – now so more than ever.”

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