Michelle Walsh

Name of delivery partner: Gingerbread
Name of participant: Michelle Walsh

How did Michelle hear about the programme?

Michelle referred herself via Burnley Jobcentre after her sister completed the programme.

Behind the scenes

Michelle is a single parent with three children aged 18, 15 and 4 (at the start of the programme). Michelle had a number of different factory jobs after leaving school but when she started the programme she had not worked for a number of years. Michelle had also volunteered for a charity shop so had built up some retail experience and knew that she enjoyed this type of work.

Michelle attended a pre-employment programme with Gingerbread which included a two week work experience placement at Marks & Spencer in Burnley; Michelle completed her placement in February 2018.

After finishing her placement, Michelle was offered a job in the Burnley M&S café where her sister had also just been taken on. Michelle had opted to do most of her placement hours in the café because she found that she really enjoyed the work and had heard that a vacancy may be coming up. At first it was unclear whether Michelle would be offered a job after Kelly had taken up the first vacancy, so there was an element of good natured sibling rivalry involved!

It is now December 2018 and, like her sister Kelly, Michelle has also worked her way up to gaining a permanent contract at M&S and is a key member of staff. Michelle has had the opportunity to work in various parts of the store and has found that M&S value her flexibility. M&S usually arrange Michelle and Kelly’s shifts so that one of them is free to do the school run; this obviously helps massively with childcare.

Michelle’s story has been used as a good news story by Burnley Jobcentre and the Burnley M&S café has recently been named the best performing M&S café in the region; Michelle is proud to be part of the team working at the café.

Participant’s starting situation

Michelle had been out of work for a number of years when she signed up to the programme and although she felt confident about working with the public, she needed support to get back into the workplace. Michelle was unsure how to go about building up some experience and felt that the work placement was the right option for her.


Apart from childcare, Michelle’s main barrier was the length of time she’d been out of the work place. Michelle felt confident about working with the public but was unsure about how to get her back into employment with such a limited work history.

What interventions and actions did the project undertake with the participant?

Michelle attended pre-employment training with Gingerbread which covered subjects such as motivation to work, benefits of work, overcoming barriers to work, identifying own employment skills, planning and working towards goals, applying for work, CVs, cover letters and applications, interviews, customer service and M&S requirements. Also one to one coaching with the opportunity for tailored support if necessary and remote support/guidance on the phone. Michelle attended a two week work placement at Burnley M&S whose manager is very supportive of the project. While on placement Michelle worked in the café and gained experience in food preparation, cleaning and serving customers.

Outcomes and impact – the result of the interventions and actions of the activity

Michelle used her placement to demonstrate that she would be a good employee; she was absolutely determined to make a good impression and as a result Michelle was offered a job.  Michelle has continued to work reliably and has been flexible at M&S – this has led to her being offered a permanent contract at M&S and she intends to continue working there. One of the main benefits from working that Michelle has mentioned was her increased social circle – she now has many more friends and said that she has a social life that she didn’t have before. She has gained experience in many parts of the store and feels that she has gained respect from her family. Michelle said that she would now feel confident if she had to look for another job, but she will be staying at M&S as long as she can.

Skills learned

Michelle was interested in retail after working for a charity shop in her local area but had never worked in a café – she found that she really enjoyed working in the café. Michelle has gained skills and experience in all aspects of the café from food hygiene and cleanliness, preparing food, serving customers and operating the till. Michelle has also worked in other areas of the store and managers have mentioned that they value her flexibility to work all over the store, rather than sticking to one area.

Next steps – what are the participant’s future plans?

Michelle has a permanent contract at M&S and plans to continue working there.