Customers using their local co-op store can expect a friendly welcome and good service from all the staff. Few would realise that one of the smiling faces they meet is a young man on a Step Up work placement. His dedication, work ethic and warm demeanour have made it easy for the regular staff to nurture, train and assimilate him into the team.

Co-op staff are full of praise for his efforts and Assistant Manager, Lindsey Lewis, said “Rhys is very enthusiastic and does everything asked of him. That’s a sign of a good employee”.

Rhys Bruines, has been supported by CBSA since 2017.

Extremely quietly spoken and very much lacking in confidence he originally took part in the Cycle Recycle Project which is part of the Active Inclusion programme, which is managed by WCVA and funded by the European Social Fund via Welsh Government.  He engaged in activities designed to boost his confidence and employability skills. He took part in a Jewellery Making workshop, improved his job search technique, gained a qualification and practised for interviews before progression to the Step Up Project. The progression to Step Up was well timed for Rhys as he lacked the work experience to make that jump directly into employment.

Rhys wanted to work in the retail sector so, whilst sourcing opportunities, Project Staff visited the Co-operative Retail Store in Burry Port and got an enthusiastic welcome. The aims of the Project were explained and arrangements made for Rhys to visit and be interviewed. On the day, despite being understandably nervous, he acquitted himself well and was offered a 6 month placement.

During the first few weeks it would be fair to say that that Rhys was anxious about his role but with support from the Co-op, his volunteer mentor and Project Staff he has settled in well.

He’s been given more responsibilities and answers customer queries as professionally as his more experienced colleagues. Dressed in his neat uniform, and always with a ready smile, he’s comfortable in the environment and fits in with everyone else. He says he really enjoys going in to work and his confidence and self-esteem have rocketed.

The Co-operative movement which began in Britain 200 years ago can be seen as the originator of the modern social economy. It’s a sector where making a profit or surplus is desirable but certainly not the only goal. They also have the aim to serve their members, community and environment. It’s about more than just business; it’s about people.

By working with CBSA’s Step Up Project to offer a placement to a young person lacking in work experience, by giving him a chance, the local Co-operative Store in Burry Port is living up to that ideal.