M&S is just the job for Holly

Store manager Vicky Stephenson with her new recruit Holly Wilkinson. Remploy's Nathan Malley looks on.
Store manager Vicky Stephenson with her new recruit Holly Wilkinson. Remploy's Nathan Malley looks on.

A 21-year-old Hutton Rudby woman, who has been job hunting since she left school, has finally been given the career start she yearned for, thanks to disability employment specialists Remploy and Northallerton’s Marks & Spencer store.

Holly Wilkinson, who has autism and had been unemployed for two years, was referred by her local Jobcentre Plus office to Remploy who then helped her secure a work placement with M&S through its Marks & Start initiative.

Marks & Start is an employability programme run by M&S in partnership with charities and organisations such as Remploy which aims to give jobseekers who face complex barriers to employment, including people with disabilities and health conditions, the chance to develop their skills and gain valuable work experience over the course of a placement at M&S.

Holly said: “Before starting with M&S, I spent most of my time at home feeling very low and demoralised.

“Most people of my age want a job and I was no exception. However my disability, and how others reacted to it, made me feel like I was at the very bottom of the pile.

“I amassed so many rejections I thought I would never get the chance to prove that I’m just as capable as anybody else of doing a really good job.”

During her four-week placement at M&S Northallerton, Holly gained on-the-job experience in the food department and an insight into retail. As part of the placement set-up, she was assigned an in-store coach and buddy who offered her support and provided her with direct training.

“My buddy Bev welcomed me into the store with open arms and she was always there if I needed her.

“She took me through my initial induction and would meet with me weekly to see how I was getting on. She encouraged me to stand on my own two feet and helped me build my confidence by telling me how I was doing at every stage of my learning.”

Holly made such a great impression with customers and staff at M&S Northallerton that her month-long placement turned into a temporary three-month job before being offered a permanent job as a customer assistant.

“Employing Holly was an easy decision to make,” said Vicky. “She developed from a shy and introverted individual into somebody who is confident and wants to do well.”

“Holly has already been nominated for two customer service awards, which is a fantastic career start.”