The pandemic has given us all a clearer understanding of the importance of the grocery sector and the role its logistics and supply chain experts play in keeping us fed.
For high-scoring college graduates looking for a career in this dynamic and growing sector, Lidl's Graduate Management Development programme is top of the queue.
The 18-month programme consists of a series of modules designed to give participants a full understanding of Ireland’s fastest growing retailer.
It’s why, when Kildare native Megan Yeates studied a BSc in Logistics and Supply Chain Management at TU (Technological University) Dublin, it was Lidl’s Graduate Management Development Programme she wanted to join.
“I wanted a business type degree but a specialised one rather than a general one,” she explains.
Yeates scored a first class honours in her final exams and secured a coveted place on the Graduate Management Development Programme last September. Since then, she has worked through one of the most challenging times ever to face the global retail sector – and loved it.
“Logistics covers everything from transport to warehousing to getting goods into stores. When you think about all the steps your morning coffee has to take before it gets to you, that’s logistics and supply chain management in action.”
Before joining Lidl’s Graduate Management Development Programme last year, Yeates won the national final of Ireland Skills Live. She won the title for her skill solving freight forwarding challenges in a simulated event in Dublin’s RDS.
That qualified her to take part in the World Skills Competition, representing Ireland in Kazan, Russia, in front of 45,000 people in a final that was broadcast all over the world. She took home the gold medal.
Yeates’ ultimate goal however was to win a place on Lidl’s Graduate Management Development Programme. “I had my eye on it from the time I started college. It was the route I wanted to follow because it’s such a high profile programme and is held in such high regard in the industry,” she says.
Lidl is such a big company, with so many opportunities and so much room for progression
She spent the first six months of the graduate programme in Lidl stores, learning about the retail grocery business from the ground up.
“You go in as a customer assistant, including packing out products onto shelves, before working on the tills and then moving on to store supervisor and then manager roles. After your operations training you come back into the office to integrate with your team, which in my case was logistics.”
Yeates joined Lidl’s Logistics team in February, just weeks before the pandemic was announced in March. From there it was all hands on deck in the warehouse.
“When the schools closed and the panic buying began, Lidl relocated the graduates to the Newbridge Distribution Centre where we were packing and shipping goods to stores. The whole team pulled together so well to get it done.”
By July she had returned to the office. “I really enjoy continuous learning and Lidl is such a big company, with so many opportunities and so much room for progression,” she says.
Excellent scope for progression is only part of the appeal of the Lidl Graduate Development Programme. Participants also get a very competitive salary of €36,400 per annum, 20 days holiday and private medical insurance, as well as active sports and social clubs.
The company currently employs more than 5,000 people on the island of Ireland. Since Covid-19 hit in March, Lidl has hired more than 1,300 people, says Scott Fay, who is a recruitment business partner in Lidl Ireland.
Lidl’s Graduate Management Development Programme is growing too, with 13 streams available this year, compared with eight last year. The award-winning programme is also City & Guilds accredited, which makes it additionally valuable for participants.
There are a number of streams into which graduates can be placed, including human resources, sales, marketing, supply chain and construction.
“It’s a bespoke training plan. The programme includes operational training so that all graduates get a 360-degree view of the business, meaning they have a complete understanding of the impact that strategic decisions have on the operation of the stores and warehouses,” explains Fay.
We want evidence of motivation and drive, people who are hard-working, willing to learn and open-minded
“After six months of operational training they go to their respective departments where they are given real, tangible projects to work on. They are given a lot of responsibility, meaning they have a great opportunity to make an impact.”
Not all participants are guaranteed a job with the retail chain after the 18 months but those that do have enormous scope for development both with Lidl in Ireland and abroad.
The next Lidl Graduate Management Development Programme is now open for applications. The retail giant is looking for graduates with a minimum of a 2:1 honours level 8 degree, in any discipline.
As Megan Yeates’ story shows, securing a place is not just about academic excellence. “We have high expectations,” says Fay. “We want evidence of motivation and drive, people who are hard-working, willing to learn and open-minded.”
In return, ambitious participants get a great start in their career. “I feel the world is my oyster now,” says Yeates. “There is so much I can do with my career.”
To give yourself the best chance at securing one of Lidl’s coveted graduate development programme places, when applying remember to:
- Make sure your CV has the ability to grab the reader's attention within the first 20 seconds
- Keep the layout clear, simple and short, preferably two pages
- Include a cover letter targeted to the position for which you are applying
- Keep sentences short and use bullet points to break up text
- When citing previous jobs, focus on key tasks achieved and skills developed
- Shout about your achievements - let the recruiter know the benefits of employing you
- Not include anything that might be considered a failure
- Check for errors.