“Give it a go and spread your wings!”: The benefits of retail apprenticeships

Young woman in retail, smiling down at tablet, retail apprenticeship

National Apprenticeship Week is an important time in the careers calendar to reflect on the advantages of this often-overlooked type of education, and the opportunities it can unlock for people getting into the world of work.

The apprenticeship schemes at Dulux Decorator Centre have been a stepping stone for many people emerging into the industry, and are a great way for women to begin their journey in a world that is heavily male dominated. We sat down with Patrycja Trala and Imogen de Salis, who both took on the Level 4 Retail Management apprenticeship with Dulux Decorator Centre, to chat about their experiences on the scheme and how it’s benefitted their careers in store management.

Imogen de Salis (left) and Patrycja Trala (right)
Imogen de Salis (left) and Patrycja Trala (right)

What inspired you to choose an apprenticeship over other forms of education? 

Imogen: I saw this apprenticeship as a chance to progress within the company; I thought that applying would teach me the skills I needed to further my professional development. I was already running the store and was pretty confident with it, but my weakness was people management. This apprenticeship promised lots of people management training, which really caught my eye. I love a challenge and learning new things, so I jumped at the opportunity!

Patrycja: Similarly to Imogen, I applied for the Level 4 Retail Management apprenticeship, which intrigued me with the wide variety of different subjects it covered. I didn’t quite have the managerial experience yet, and completing the course gave me a great head start in my career. It allowed me to push myself and develop my skills, while also giving me the opportunity to receive accreditation – it was a real win-win.

What skills do you believe you have gained from your apprenticeship? How has your apprenticeship benefited you?

Patrycja: My apprenticeship gave me a real insight into the ins and outs of the business, getting a sneak peek behind the curtain on how business works. I really enjoyed being able to write a business project, looking at the objectives, sales, marketing and finances of the store. Not only did this help me understand our business, but also our current situation in the market.

Imogen: I’m going to have to agree with Patrycja: getting to know the behind-the-scenes of how a store is run was very cool! There are lots of things you don’t often get to see at store level, like the work that goes into merchandising and organising promotions. It was also just really lovely to speak to multiple different departments to discover how everyone has such an important role in the business.  I found it really insightful.

A few months after finishing my apprenticeship, I moved from Caterham, a small store with only two Sales Assistants, to be the Assistant Manager in Epsom, a very busy hub store with a team of seven Sales Assistants and Drivers. I am constantly challenged in my new role and have loved every minute of it! The skills I developed in my apprenticeship have undoubtedly helped me with the experience of working in a hub store, and I can notice my People Management skills improving week-on-week.

Patrycja: It’s so exciting to see another past apprentice feel so secure in their role! I have to say, that’s how the apprenticeship scheme benefitted me the most – it’s really boosted my confidence. We work in a store that is heavily catered to professional painters and decorators, which is hugely male dominated – only 4.8% of painters and decorators are women. It’s really rewarding to be a woman in an industry that’s so male-focused, and my apprenticeship gave me the confidence to be that woman, as well as affirming my passion for management and being part of a team.

Imogen: Here, here!

What have you had the opportunity to do, or what have you learnt that you wouldn’t have if you hadn’t completed your apprenticeship?

Imogen: I truly believe it is the knowledge and understanding gained throughout the apprenticeship – mostly about people, their behaviour and their responsibilities – that helped me get to the position I am now. It’s that in-depth knowledge about how people really make the business a success that weaves its way into your managerial skills, and I don’t think I would’ve sustained that level of perception having not done the scheme.

Patrycja: Agreed, there are just some experiences you don’t get on the shop floor. As well as that, it gave me a better appreciation for management and what goes into making a strong business. It’s that passion and drive that the apprenticeship propelled even further that I think makes me a strong manager.

What advice would you give to someone looking to start their apprenticeship journey?

Patrycja: Give it a go and spread your wings! On occasions it will not be easy – it takes time and you will have thousands of questions – but there are people ready to assist and direct you in the right way. The apprenticeship will definitely bare the fruits.

Imogen: 100 per cent! No-one ever knows what they’re doing from the off otherwise there’s no point in doing it! While it may have been stressful at times, I have absolutely no regrets and would consider doing another apprenticeship in the future. I now have an extra qualification and I have learned such a vast amount about not just our business, but the retail sector as a whole.

Dulux Decorator Centre is the largest decorating store network in the UK. With over 230 stores nationwide, it brings a huge range of services and products to decorating professionals and DIY enthusiasts across the country. To find out more about job opportunities at Dulux Decorator Centre, please visit https://dulux.manpower.co.uk/

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