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Career Options in Retail & Sales: School Leaver

Is your weekend retail job the bee’s knees, and you want to explore careers in this area further? Interested to know how the big department stores, online retailers and supermarkets work on a daily business behind the scenes? Got the gift of the gab and want to put it to good use? There will be a suitable school leaver role out there for you right now in retail and sales if you choose this pathway!

School leaver opportunities in retail & sales

- School leaver programmes

- Intermediate apprenticeships

- Advanced apprenticeships

- Higher apprenticeships

- Standard retail roles

As a school leaver you could work for retail companies of all shapes and sizes. From luxury retail names and household name department stores, to world renowned supermarkets, you could get started in a standard role with them right now, on the shop floor or in customer services, for example. Over time, one of these roles does offer the opportunity to go for promotions, earn pay rises, lead teams and take on more responsibility, or even become a store manager eventually as you gain experience.

Alternatively, you could look into doing an apprenticeship or school leaver programme with some big retail names straight out of school, either with GCSEs or A-levels. These schemes will provide you with structured, government approved training (if it’s an apprenticeship scheme) in the working environment, as well as support for study for a professional qualification, and a salary!

School leaver programmes could focus on different areas depending on the industry they’re in and the different functions involved, such as buying, merchandising or management for example. You’ll need to have GCSE qualifications (usually at least a C or B in English and maths) to do an intermediate or advanced apprenticeship, and GCSEs as well as at least two A-levels (or equivalent qualifications) to take on a school leaver programme.

Intermediate and advanced apprenticeships are also available for training in sales roles in a number of different industries. You could get started in telesales, customer services roles focusing on business development in areas like banking, or even dealership in the automobile industry.

Setting the school leaver record straight

Retail has long provided opportunities for employment for individuals directly out of school. With the glorious rise of the school leaver programme, the retail and sales sector has gallantly taken up the apprenticeship scheme baton and run with it, creating structured programmes designed to allow school leavers with GCSEs and/or A-levels build successful careers in retail and sales with genuine opportunities for career progression to senior levels. So jog on, snooty characters who don’t see this as a valid alternative to the graduate route!

Formal education: Should I stay or should I go?

This all depends on how much you want to have a taste of the university experience – and perhaps how quickly you want to progress in retail and sales too. There are some graduate programmes which are designed to fast-track you into management roles at a much quicker rate than if you were to start out on the very first wrung of the ladder, and the graduate starting salaries can be much more generous too.

However, university still means at least another three years or so before you’ll get into work, and there is the student debt to consider…If you’d rather avoid this altogether, then you may feel ready to move into school leaver opportunities in this sector right now instead. 

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