From education to employment

From fish & chips to funerals – Co-op Funeralcare celebrates 2000th apprentice

Having exceeded its target of recruiting an apprentice per day in 2016, Co-op Funeralcare is celebrating its 2000th recruit who has swapped fish & chips for Funeralcare.
Ryan Coombes, 23, from Grimsby spent four years working at his local fish & chip shop before deciding to make the career move. After earning himself the nickname ‘road runner’ for his speedy serving skills, Ryan decided it was time for his next challenge and applied for Co-op Funeralcare’s apprenticeship.
The UK’s leading funeral director saw an intake of 40 to 50 new recruits every month in 2016, resulting in approximately 500 apprentices joining every year, since launching the programme in 2013. Furthermore, the funeral provider is on track to continue to recruit the same number of apprentices again this year.
The apprenticeship has attracted a diverse range of applicants over the past four years, drawing in people of all ages and from all walks of life. From classical musicians to plumbers and police men, Funeralcare is often the chosen career for those wanting a new and rewarding challenge.
Commenting on his new role, Ryan said: “I am thoroughly enjoying this new line of work, it’s been the best decision I’ve made. I’ve learnt so much already and within just three months as an apprentice I was promoted to a full-time Funeral Services Operative. It’s so rewarding to be part of something so important to the community, helping people through a tough time.
‘’As I look to the future I can’t wait to develop my career with Co-op Funeralcare, working towards my goal of becoming a Funeral Director.’’
Supporting this transition, the programme is designed to provide those embarking on a career in funerals with high quality, industry focussed and nationally recognised qualifications.
Jenny Atkinson, Head of HR for Co-op Funeralcare added: “Working within the funeral industry can be an extremely rewarding and satisfying career. Four years since launch, it’s great to see that we’re still attracting such a strong pool of applicants and we’re incredibly pleased to have welcomed our 2000th so soon.
“Our intention has always been to provide people from all walks of life with the opportunity to develop a worthwhile career in funerals. Providing they possess compassion, empathy, excellent service and organisational skills, we can teach everything else on the job.”
Co-op Funeralcare delivers the apprenticeship in partnership with learndirect and remains the only UK national Funeral Director to offer an apprenticeship in Funeral Operations and Services, following its launch in 2013 incorporating a QCF Level 2 and a QCF Level 3 in Funeral Operations and Services (formerly known as NVQ).
Kylie, age 28, ex-cabin attendant turned Funeral Arranger from Southampton. After spending 8 years working on a ferry going from Southampton to the Isle of Wight, Kylie decided life on the sea was no longer for her. A bereavement in 2014 opened Kylie’s eyes to the important role of Funeral Directors which led to her applying for Co-op’s Funeralcare apprenticeship programme.
Emma, 36 from Cornwall, Funeral Services Operative. After 7 years working with the most dangerous and prolific young offenders in Plymouth as part of the Youth Offending Team, Emma went on to work for a local charity, developing a bereavement group. This sparked Emma’s ambitions to support her community and led her to Co-op Funeralcare’s apprenticeship programme.
‘’Having worked with young people for the past 14 years, I came to realise that what I really enjoyed about my role was meeting people from different backgrounds and being able to guide them through difficult times. My new career in funeralcare is extremely rewarding, the best part about it is knowing I’m making a difference to people’s lives at what can be an incredibly hard time.’’
Robert, Co-op Funeralcare’s oldest apprentice at 67 is an ex-Detective Sergeant turned Funeral Services Operative. “I can honestly say there is no other job I’d rather be doing. After a 30 year stint with the police, I did wonder how I would find working in funerals, but I love it. I only wish I’d done it sooner. My wife also recently started working at the Margate funeral home and hopes to become an apprentice in the coming months.”  
Katie Tulett, former councillor – Co-op Funeralcare’s youngest apprentice at 21. “I have somewhat an emotional attachment to Co-op Funeralcare. My Grandad, my mum and my Nan’s funerals were arranged with Co-op and whilst I didn’t have much to do with the arrangements, I will never forget their send offs. It was from the support my family received during these times that I realised I had to work in funerals.
“When I was just 18 I studied an introduction to counselling course and a Level 3 in counselling skills, hoping that this would lead me to funerals and it did.  I remember how I excited I was after passing my interviews,  I repeated to myself over and over ‘just be yourself’ and when I got the call to say I got the job, the tears started to flow, I was just so happy I had made it.”
About The Co-op:
The Co-op, one of the world’s largest consumer co-operatives, with interests across food, funerals, insurance, electrical and legal services, has a clear purpose of championing a better way of doing business for you and your communities. Owned by millions of UK consumers, The Co-op operates a total of 3,750 outlets, with more than 70,000 colleagues and an annual turnover of approximately £10 billion.
Home to the UK’s leading funeral provider, Co-op Funeralcare conducts almost 100,000 funerals annually across over 1,000 funeral homes. Combined with its leading legal services business, the Co-op is also a national provider of later life products and services ranging from funeral plans, through to wills and probate.

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