M & S is just the job for Holly | Remploy

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Published Wednesday, 26th August 2015

A 21-year-old North Yorkshire woman, who has been job hunting since she left school, has finally been given the career start she yearned for.

Marks & Spencer employee, her manager and Remploy Employment Advisor in front of M & S 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 had amassed so many rejections that 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. Then, on what she believed would be her final day, Store Manager Vicky Stephenson offered her a permanent job as a customer assistant. Holly, who lives in Hutton Rudby, jumped at the chance!

“Employing Holly was an easy decision to make,” said Vicky Stephenson. “She developed from a shy and introverted individual into somebody who is confident and really wants to do well, and these are exactly the qualities we look for at M&S. Holly is also a firm favourite with our customers and has already been nominated for two customer service awards, which is a fantastic career start!”

Holly added: “Having a job means everything to me. I have a reason to get out of the house and I’m proud to tell others that I have a job. Finally, I have a future to look forward to, and that means more than anything.”

Nathan Malley from Remploy works with M&S to find the right candidates for its Marks & Start programme. “Through Remploy, M&S has access to capable and motivated candidates who are job-ready and well briefed about the demands of working in the retail sector.

“Since we were appointed by M&S as its disability partner in May 2011, we have supported around 1,200 people into employment with the company, and that figure is increasing all the time. It’s a great success story for us and for people like Holly who have the opportunity to return to work or find meaningful employment for the first time.”


Photo caption:

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

For further information, please contact:

Tim Crowther, Crowther Communications Ltd


07710 356355

David Felton, Remploy


07803 214682


Remploy Notes to Editors:

1. Remploy was established 70 years ago to provide training and employment after the Second World War for injured and disabled ex-servicemen and miners.

2. Since 2010, Remploy has found almost 100,000 jobs in mainstream employment for people with a range pf physical, sensory and learning disabilities, mental health conditions and other disadvantages.

3. Remploy work with more than 2,500 employer partners including Marks and Spencer, BT, ASDA, Royal Mail, Sainsbury’s and the NHS

4. Remploy has an increasing focus on providing specialist disability employment services to people with mental health conditions or learning disabilities.

5. It invests in developing innovating approaches and services for employers which are cost effective and business efficient including consultancy and vocational rehabilitation services.

6. In April 2015 Remploy left government ownership in a joint venture between MAXIMUS, a leading operator of government health and human service programmes in the United Satets, UK, Canada, Australia and Saudi Arabia, and Remploy employees who have a 30% stake in the company.

7. The joint venture will help develop Remploy to its full potential, enabling it to support many more disabled people into work.

Marks & Start Facts and Figures

M&S works with four programme partners to support those who face barriers to employment:

  • The Prince’s Trust (young people between the ages of 16-25),
  • Remploy (people with disabilities and health conditions),
  • Business in the Community's Ready for Work programme (people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness)
  • Gingerbread (single parents)