1. What type of work will I be doing?
This will be dependent on which programme you join - the general management, HR, retail operations, or the finance programme.
General Programme: You will have challenging and real project objectives to deliver against, which may be part of a wider change project or stand-alone. Your project could be based in any part of our business and the kinds of projects you could work on are as broad ranging as our businesses, so there is no typical example. However, whatever projects you choose they will provide you with an opportunity to influence and contribute to transforming and modernising the business.
Examples of the types of projects you may work on:
a) Reviewing the customer wine strategy within our food business
b) Designing and implementing the resourcing and development strategy for Funeralcare
c) Planning and event management of The Co-operative Village Road Show
d) Reviewing our Fairtrade Strategy and making recommendations on the way forward
e) Project Management and implementation of a medical delivery service within Pharmacy
HR Programme: Like the other programmes, you will start by completing a 6-week induction. You will then undertake an 8-week store placement which is designed to give you the opportunity to really understand who our customers are. Upon completion of this you will then undertake your core year – a chance to undertake two projects within head office, allowing you to develop a wide range of skills in business functions of your choice. Your second year will be the chance to specialise in HR, here you will be given the opportunity to work in a number of HR Functions whilst studying towards your CIPD.
Retail Operations Programme: Once you have completed the induction, you will have the opportunity to choose one project in food and one project in another business area before moving onto our specially designed "Co-operative Way" training which will give you the skills you need to manage one of our food stores. After this training you will spend time managing a store and gaining the experience you need to become a Regional Operations Manager.
Finance Programme: You will be given the chance to gain transactional experience working with the software tools, systems and processes typical of a large finance function, before carrying out a series of live business placements, across a range of departments. You'll not only gain a broad understanding of how we operate – you'll also be exposed to some our most critical change projects. As you progress through the programme, you'll learn how to lead projects, manage stakeholders, engage in successful negotiation and respond to the immense challenges of change. Your experience will be tailored to satisfy the CIMA requirements so you'll cover everything from management accounting to business strategy.
2. Will I get to pick my projects?
On the General Management programme, the Graduate Programme Manager will email out to managers across the business and ask them to submit projects that are business critical, developmental, and realistic in terms of timescales. You will then pick the project that best suits your ambitions, preferences and developmental needs .
The placements on the finance programme are guided by the requirements of the CIMA qualification. The Graduate Programme Manager will discuss your preferences with you and find finance placements that match these preferences and the needs of CIMA.
The Retail Operations and HR Programmes operate similar to the general management programme in the core year, however, during the second year where you gain your specialist experience, these placements will be more structured to ensure you get all the exposure you need to the different areas of HR.
3. How long is the programme?
The General Management, HR and Retail Operations programmes lasts for 24 months, and the finance programme is 3 years.
4. I am passionate about food retail/travel/other. Can I choose to just work in this business?
The programmes are Group-wide and it is advisable to do projects that are spread across a range of businesses. The graduate programme is a fantastic opportunity for you to experience different businesses at the start of your career with The Co-operative Group. However, if you have a particular passion for HR, the HR stream might be most suited to your needs and if you are interested in a career in our food business, the retail operations programme might be right for you.
5. What training and development will I receive?
As well as study time and sponsorship towards a relevant post-graduate or professional qualification you will receive intensive, individual development. During and after each project you will undertake a personal and in-depth learning and development review, which will be followed by a management development programme. These programmes will focus on building core management skills, working strategically, leadership and introducing and driving change.
6. Are mentoring programmes available?
Yes, you will be given the opportunity to have a senior manager as a mentor
7. Will I be on a fast-track for promotion?
The graduate development programme is designed to give you excellent development, support and high profile project opportunities in the business, enabling advanced development into future management roles. We do not map your long-term career development or fit you into pre-determined career paths. You are given the opportunities to drive and develop your own career in the way most suited to your own needs and preferences.
8. What benefits & Salary will I receive?
- Starting salary of £24,000 per annum
- Salary increase of up to £2,000 for meeting objectives
- 27 days' annual holiday (in addition to 9 bank and public holidays)
- An award winning pension (average career earnings scheme)
- Free Life Assurance
- A BUPA reduction of up to 35%
- An interest free travel season ticket loan
- Discounted membership at Virgin Active
- An employee discount card entitling you to up to 15% off a wide range of our own goods and services
- Membership of our Manchester complex sports and social club – giving you access to our newly refurbished gym with sun beds, as well as discounts on theatre and concert tickets, and on UK and overseas trips
- For a joining fee of £1, an opportunity to become a member of the Co-operative Group which lets you have a say in how the business is run and also gives you access to the following:
- Annual employee member dividend – an extra share of the profits specifically for employees
- An employee member discount card entitling you to employee discounts of up to 30% off a wide range of our own goods and services across our family of businesses
- A voluntary employee members benefits package including a whole host of offers and discounts on everything from fun days out to driving lessons and health spas
- Free independent financial advise on anything from coping with student loan payments to taking out your first mortgage
9. How will my salary increase?
General Management, HR and Retail Operations: If you consistently achieve your project objectives there is potential to increase your salary by a further £2,000 after twelve months. You should also expect to increase your salary by a minimum of a further £1,000 within eighteen months when you complete the programme and move into your first managerial role. However, this is entirely dependent upon your performance.
Finance Programme: If you consistently achieve your project objectives and you successfully work towards your CIMA qualification, there is potential for your salary to increase up to £2000 each year you are on the programme. However, this is entirely dependent on your performance.
10. How do I apply?
There are five stages, the first is an on-line situational judgement tests, the second is an application form, the third is online psychometric tests, the forth is a face-to-face interview and the final stage is an assessment centre. The application form stage is very competitive and we would encourage you to take your time to show us why you are different and right for our programme.
11. How many graduates are you taking on?
We are looking to take on around 28 exceptional graduates.
12. How many people apply?
It is difficult to know exactly how many people will apply this year but we are expecting about 2,500 applications. We will meet about 200 of these people for an interview and about 80 of these people will be invited to an assessment centre. The application form stage is very competitive and we would encourage you to take your time to show us why you are different and right for our scheme.
13. What is the closing date?
Please check our website for details of our closing date.
14. When would I start work?
15. Where will I be based?
In our Head Offices, in and around the Greater Manchester area. You may also be required to undertake placements in Burslem or Bristol during the programme and undertake some national travel. If you join us on the Retail Operations programme you will be based in Manchester for the first year but will then move to a regional store for your second year.
16. Would I get help with re-location or housing if I needed it?
We do not offer a relocation package however, we offer help with finding somewhere to live and will pay for a hotel whilst you search for accommodation.
For the Retail Operations programme, we will provide some support when you move back in to the region after your core year is complete.
17. Do I need to drive?
A driving license is not part of our selection criteria, however you may find the role easier if you drive.
18. What are you looking for?
Of course we're looking for the brightest and best graduates, like all recruiters, but we are also looking for something different. Its not just about academic ability, as a graduate on our development programme you will need to have a unique mix of skills and behaviours. You will share our values and principles and be passionate about our business. The programme isn't for everyone. The challenges the business will throw at you will mean you have to be confident, tenacious, resilient and flexible. And while early responsibility and a high profile are exciting prospects, it won't be easy to earn the credibility and respect that you'll need to make an impact.
19. What degree disciplines can apply?
Any degree discipline, although a business-related degree would be advantageous.
20. Are there undergraduate placements & work experience available?
We do offer undergraduate 12-month placements within the business. Please refer to our website for details of the placements we are currently advertising.
For other types of work experience, although we don't have a set programme, we do try to offer opportunities when possible.
21. Is the programme/salary any different if I already have a post-graduate qualification?
The programme is open to those with post-graduate qualifications; however the content of the programme and the salary we offer is the same for all.
22. Are there any opportunities for international travel or use of languages?
As we are a UK based co-operative it is unlikely that we would be able to offer these opportunities. If this is important to you it is unlikely we are right for you.
23. Will I have the opportunity to mix with different management levels?
Absolutely! You will meet managers from all over our business from your first interview onwards; during the assessment centre, in your first week, at networking events, through your development programme, on your projects and through your mentor.
24. Can you take a break at the end of the scheme before you take a permanent role?
We currently offer career breaks or sabbaticals in exceptional circumstances only.
25. Am I guaranteed a permanent role at the end of the programme?
Our recruitment process is rigorous and if we make you an offer we will be certain that you are right for us. You will be offered a permanent role from day one.
26. What role will I move into after I finish the programme?
This is entirely up to you. By the time you reach the end of your programme you will have experienced a range of different businesses, functions and project roles and so you will have a really good idea of the area you would like to move into.
Previous graduates have moved into roles such as:
- Marketing Manager within Funeralcare
- Business Development Manager within Pharmacy
- Procurement Manager
- Events Manager
- HR Manager
- Ethics Advisor
27. Is age important in my application?
No. The Co-operative Group is an employer who values diversity and seeks to engage our people regardless of gender, ethnicity, culture, age, physical ability, mental impairment, sexual orientation, region/belief marital status, education and those with caring responsibilities amongst other attributes. The Co-operative Group's programme has been highlighted as best practice for recruiting and developing mature graduates by the AGR (Association of Graduate Recruiters) the EFA (Employers Forum on Age) and Prospects.
28. How do you support people with disabilities?
The Co-operative Group will make any reasonable adjustments to support people with disabilities throughout the application process and if you joined the business.
29. Can I apply now and defer my start date?
No. We only invite about 80 people to assessment centre, in order that we can get to know each candidate very well. This means that we do not have space on each assessment centre for candidates who wish to apply for the following year.