PEOPLE are increasingly looking for employers who give back to their communities and have a positive impact on society, as well as offering workplace progression and opportunities.
This makes Tesco an ideal starting point for a great career, especially if you consider the scale and breadth of the national community programmes it runs.
Last year alone, with many families facing hardship due to the pandemic, the retailer put together a £30million package of support for communities in the UK. It donated £15million worth of food and funds for distribution through partners The Trussell Trust and FareShare, in addition to ongoing monthly donations of 2.5 million meals a month from surplus food.
Plus, it supported more than 10,000 local community groups with £8million worth of grants through its Community Grants Scheme (formerly Bags of Help) programme, and donated £2million to the British Red Cross to help them support people in need during the pandemic.
Serving local communities is part of the supermarket’s DNA.
It is at the very heart of Tesco’s own story, which began with a market stall in east London in 1919 and saw the company grow from opening its first supermarket in 1958 to becoming a familiar face on our high streets.
Now, with more than 3,500 stores and over 300,000 employees, it is the UK’s biggest private-sector employer. And its role in local communities continues to be significant – whether that’s creating local jobs, supporting local suppliers, helping local causes or simply providing shoppers with what they need.
Research shows that every £1 of Tesco profit drives £20 of spend in the wider community. And 80 per cent of people now see supermarkets as vital local services and believe its staff are key workers.
And anyone entering the business can be sure it is a place they can make a difference, as well as build their skills.
Tesco has a network of over 300 colleague Community Champions across the UK. These are dedicated members of staff on hand in stores to direct help to local customers and organisations, right where it’s needed.
They are responsible for coordinating efforts to support the local community, from donating surplus food, working with local charities to redistribute it, to supporting local projects with funding from the Tesco Community Grants Scheme.
Seema Ismail, 25, is a customer stock control assistant at Bury’s Tesco Superstore. She was given the chance to be the store’s Community Champion for six months during lockdown while her colleague shielded.
People turned to their supermarkets, not only for food but also for support and reassurance – a constant in their communities among all the change and uncertainty.
“It was an honour,” Seema says. “During the pandemic, people felt they were alone – like they had no one.
“My manager suggested I try the role for day to see how I got on. I went from working with one charity that first day to 15 charities and 19 projects in six months.”
She sees herself as the glue between the store and the community, whether that means dealing with food bank donations or summer school meals, or simply brightening the long lockdown days for care home residents.
“A customer came in to buy mobile phones out of her own pocket for elderly people who weren’t able to see their families,” she says. “She said how upsetting it was, how the residents were really lonely, quiet and sad.
“I had a discussion with a store manager and we provided half of the mobile phones. I made care packages with things like colouring books and crosswords for them. I got a tea and coffee package made for the staff, and a bouquet of flowers, just to say thank you for everything that they were doing.
“It’s the little things often that make a big difference. And it’s so special to be able to help.”
“When she came in, she wasn’t expecting it at all. She was crying but they were happy tears. She was happy to see that we actually cared.”
Seema is from a Tesco family; her aunt and cousins used to work at the Bury store too. Her own journey with Tesco began in 2014 as a Christmas temp while in sixth form and carried on while she was doing her BSc in Accounting and Finance at the University of Salford.
For anyone who hasn’t thought of a career in retail, Seema’s advice is to see the bigger picture. “It can be so much more than you think, so just go and see for yourself. Ask for work experience or a day shadowing someone else’s role.
“Every time I go into work, I enjoy being there. In terms of development, there’s no limits,” she says “There are so many programmes to help you progress, plus, you get to do that at the same time as being able to help the local community. It really is so satisfying knowing that you can make a difference to other peoples’ lives when you go to work every day.”
Kieran Jones, 29, from Wythenshawe, is the Community Champion at Baguley Tesco Extra in Manchester. He can often be found organising coffee mornings or bingo for local pensioners, or putting on his apron, or dusting off his DIY skills, when it’s needed.
“It’s about getting out there and finding out what the community needs,” he says. “For instance, a lady I know from the community centre said she knew of a little group who needed help with their fruit and vegetable garden. We got some plants and I took my drill. We revamped the flower beds and brought it all to life again.
“We work with local schools and clubs and we’ve got a brilliant team of volunteers in store. If someone needs help and we can do it, we’ll do it.”
There’s no doubt the public are seeing the role of supermarkets and their workers differently due to the pandemic, especially when staff were working around the clock to keep shelves full and upping deliveries to make sure the vulnerable could get groceries.
Kieran’s proudest moment has been supporting the vital work of the Bideford Centre, a community centre-turned-food hub, which welcomed 1,200 people a week through its doors at the pandemic’s peak in 2020.
“People were losing their jobs, businesses were having to close,” Kieran says. “The volunteer manager, Kirsty, was running around like crazy picking up food donations but she only had her personal car. Most of her volunteers are elderly, so they were shielding. My partner, who was on furlough, and I said, ‘Right we need to get down the food hub, this is a great opportunity to help the community.’”
So, Kieran set up a Facebook page, contacted local businesses, ran raffles and fundraisers and raised more than £6,500: enough to buy them their own transit van and a year’s insurance.
“It’s all branded with The Bideford Centre and we’ve got the Tesco logo on there as well as the other retail supporters. Kirsty can now go and do all her supermarket pick-ups in one go. It’s made a huge difference. She was so happy, she was in tears. When I see the van driving past, I can’t help but smile.”
Since joining Tesco in 2008, aged 16, Kieran has enjoyed being able to move around within the store. “I left school, had two weeks off and got a job straightaway. I loved the checkouts. I’m quite a bubbly person, I love the interaction with customers.”
When the store’s previous Community Champion, Sheila, started a new role he jumped at the chance to take on the job. “Sheila, I call her ‘my work mum’. I used to watch her and think I would love to do that. My manager said I’d be perfect and the rest was history. It’s just been amazing.”
He has been in the job for seven years and recently turned down the offer of a management role. “I’m not ready to move. I love what I do. I enjoy my job too much because I can give back to the community every day.”
“Tesco gives you the opportunity to do anything,” Kieran says. “If you want to do it, the options and the support are there.”
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