The John Lewis Partnership has launched a new initiative to employ young people who have been part of the care system as it looks to address wider recruitment challenges.
The group has been running pilots in partnership with councils and local charities across different areas of the country to provide training and employment in its John Lewis and Waitrose stores to care-experienced young people.
The JLP said it was still “early days” for its Building Happier Futures programme, but that it was a key pillar of its long-term ambition to “become the employer of choice” for those exiting the care system and struggling to find “meaningful jobs”.
It added that the initiative was even more important against the current cost of living backdrop and “with so many businesses facing recruitment challenges”.
Retailers have struggled with a mass exodus of older workers from the industry and overall labour shortages in the past couple of years.
Earlier this year, a report by charity Retail Trust revealed a fifth of retail workers and a third of people working for the UK’s biggest retailers wanted to leave.
Additionally, 84% of retail staff said their mental health had deteriorated over the last year alone amid concerns around finances, customer abuse and post-pandemic fatigue.
“Thousands of young people with potential are being overlooked in the national conversation and that urgently needs to change,” said John Lewis chair Sharon White.
“We want over time to become the employer of choice for young people leaving the care system. We know they make fantastic partners and we can in turn provide the opportunity for meaningful work and the chance to progress.
“We would love to join forces with other businesses wishing to recruit so we can help more young people.”
The JLP said it was keen to work with more small businesses, charities and community organisations as it expanded the Building Happier Futures employment programme.
In the future, the business wants to launch dedicated apprenticeships for care leavers and offer financial support for young people who have been in care to pursue further or higher education.
Melanie Armstrong, CEO at Action for Children – which is working in partnership with the retailer as part of the programme – said: “We work with at least 40,000 children and young people in, or with experience of, the social care system every year, and we know the challenges and inequalities they face.
“We believe this partnership will enable us to support and empower more children and young people as they make the transition from care into the adult world.”