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Golden age for mature retail staff

TRAVEL agency chains are opting for experience over
youth by shunning school leavers in favour of more mature
trainees.

For the first time Leeds Co-op has taken a “year off” recruiting
16-year-olds and dropped its modern apprentice scheme to
concentrate exclusively on mature trainees.

Meanwhile, West Midlands Co-op is now taking on almost three
times as many mature trainees as school leavers annually, resulting
in vastly improved staff retention rates.

Staff up to the age of 57 are being employed by both chains and
trained via in-house courses specifically designed for mature
trainees.

The new starters range from housewives and florists to Tesco
managers, Burger King cashiers and railway workers, and have a
wealth of experience lacking in younger recruits.

West Midlands Co-op deputy general manager of the travel
division Sue Reid said: “We’ve moved to taking on more mature
staff. The majority of these people have travelled a lot. We see it
as an opportunity to take on more motivated people with life
skills.”

Leeds Co-op general manager Paul Daley said the focus on mature
trainees aimed to improve the mix of staff ages. The policy will be
reviewed next year.

“There is increasingly a belief customers want to see a broad
cross-section of agents they can relate to. Focusing on mature
recruits will help us do this. We’ve got good 16-year-olds
but we want the right mix.”

Until now Leeds Co-op, which has 19 shop branches and one call
centre, has recruited 14 school leavers and 12 mature trainees on
average a year. The group, which has no retirement age, has eight
mature trainees on this year’s 10-week course.

West Midlands Co-op usually runs two seven-week courses for 28
mature staff a year, while recruiting a further 10-12 young
trainees from travel training courses. It has 22 high-street shops
and a call centre.

A spokeswoman from the Transport Salaried Staffs’
Association welcomed the moves.

“The industry is biased against older workers,”she said.

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