M&S Named Employer Of The Year By Now Group

Retailer recognised for local partnership helping support those with learning difficulties and autism into employment

Marks & Spencer has been named ‘Employer of the Year’ at a recent graduation event held by The NOW Group – an organisation dedicated to supporting those with learning difficulties and autism into sustainable employment in Northern Ireland.

The graduation ceremony, which was held at Stormont, saw more than 200 graduates receive certificates for completing training in core industries including, warehousing, digital, retail, tourism, catering and hospitality and cyber security, to name but a few.

Among them were eight young people from the North Coast who completed a 12-week course run by the Now Group training academy in partnership with M&S Coleraine Riverside.

The graduates undertook one day of study a week in areas including retail management and customer service before completing three placement days in store, working with M&S colleagues.

Speaking about the award win, M&S Coleraine Riverside Store Manager Kieran McCauley said: “We are delighted to have been given this accolade. Working with the NOW Group and our recent graduates has been a brilliant experience for our whole store team.

“It has been wonderful seeing participant’s confidence grow as they learned more and more about working in a store like ours and we are very proud they all completed the course. It’s fantastic to have been there to see them receive their certificates.

“Providing opportunities for people of all different backgrounds and walks of life is very important to M&S and we look forward to our partnership with The NOW Group continuing to grow.”

Ciaran Pepper, a NOW Group participant who has gone on to secure a job with M&S Coleraine Riverside comments: “I was interested in a career in retail catering but lacked the confidence, belief and knowledge on how to get into the sector. Through the training academy, the NOW Group has given me an opportunity to develop the necessary skills in an industry that I’m truly passionate about and interested in.

“I have learned all the practical skills I need to sustain a successful career and I’m really looking forward to joining the world of work and learning even more about the retail industry.”

Reflecting on the significance of the event, Maeve Monaghan, NOW Group CEO, expressed heartfelt congratulations to all the graduates and to M&S for being named employer of the year. “Our training academies are designed to equip participants with tangible skills, experience and qualifications, paving the way for their integration into the workforce and helping them to make meaningful contributions to their communities.”

Maeve adds: “NOW Group is proactively partnering with businesses to address recruitment challenges and provide inclusive solutions for individuals facing employment barriers, and it is thanks to M&S, and our partners and organisations, across Ireland, whom we work closely with to run many of our academies and who are helping to lead the way in promoting accessibility, diversity and inclusion.”

In the past year, NOW Group has supported over 1,550 participants through its initiatives with 250 participants going on to gain paid employment. Along with the 12+ bespoke academies, the NOW Group offers soft skills programmes and in the past year, has run over 1,000 courses.

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