New shopping city has a built-in training function

Ngaio Crequer

A shopping and entertainment centre larger than 30 football pitches is to open in Manchester next year with what it says is a unique commitment to recruitment and training.

An employment charter was established before construction began on the Pounds 600 million centre. The charter is to maximise training and career opportunities for local and unemployed people during building work, and when the centre is open.

The Trafford Centre, described as a 1.4 million square feet shopping, catering and entertainment "city", is a partnership between the Manchester Training and Enterprise Council and South Trafford College, and is supported by Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council and the Employment Service.

An integral part is the Trafford Centre Recruitment and Training Foundation, which has just opened, and which is intended to help local and unemployed people share the 7,000 career opportunities.

The first people to start at the foundation will be drawn from areas within a six-mile radius of the development. They will be either long-term unemployed, returning to work, or seeking to renew their skills - all of which is in line with the employment charter.

Applicants will be entered in the foundation's data base by the 16 local job centres.

Applicants can also take "The Trafford Centre Career Step" - a 75-hour course which includes an English Tourist Board "Welcome Host" certificate recognised by the Open University and the Northern Council of Further Education.

The course is free to those receiving income support or Jobseekers' Allowance, and successful candidates will be recommended for an interview with a Trafford Centre employer.

There will also be two-day customer service training courses - known as the Trafford Factor- for existing staff of the retail and catering partners, such as Selfridges, Debenhams, Boots, and C A.

"The best designed and most advanced shopping, catering and leisure environment will be opening in less than a year, so we are beginning to look for the best people to make it work," said James Lindsay, business director at the Trafford Centre.

"We are embarking on a brand new approach to large scale recruitment and training designed to achieve new standards in customer service, and to offer career opportunities to local unemployed people.

"Our aim is to recruit and train the full range of staff needed by our retail partners and to create a pool of motivated and com-petent people available for interview andselection as opening day approaches."

Linda Stokes, project manager, Manchester TEC said: "Our primary role in this vital project is to use our expertise in recruitment and training to help Trafford Centre employers recruit local people, where possible, with the right personalities for the centre's unique customer service culture, and to develop their existing skills.

"The foundation will also be providing access to a host of other business services which will, in particular, be of benefit to the smaller and medium-sized businesses in the Trafford Centre."

The foundation will remain open after the initial recruitment phase and continue as a specialist resource for the region. Approaches have already been received by retailers and other companies who are interested in using the facilities but who do not plan to be in the centre.

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