Kickstart a bright future with Lidl’s innovative work and study programme
Lidl’s Feed Your Mind programme offers candidates a chance to work on a full competitive salary while qualifying for a level 7 foundation degree
Tuition fees are fully paid for by the company, travel and accommodation is covered, and all participants are paid their full salary over the two years of the course. Photograph: Getty Images
Completing a business degree while working in the most reputable food retailer in Ireland* that pays 100 per cent of your salary and covers all of your tuition fees might sound too good to be true, but that’s exactly what Lidl is offering with its Feed Your Mind (FYM) development degree programme, run in conjunction with Ulster University and Irish Times training.
The two-year level 7 foundation degree in management practice with specialism in retail is aimed at those with a background in retail and business operations including logistics.
Siobhra Disdale, senior project manager for Lidl’s Learning and Development department and programme manager for Feed Your Mind says this year Lidl hopes to recruit several eager candidates into the third year of the degree programme.
Because you don’t have to travel for two or three evenings a week for lectures, you can literally be based anywhere in Ireland
Seventeen students took up places in year one, 30 in year two. Lidl hopes to take on even more in 2020.
“There have been zero drop-outs,” Disdale says. “That’s because there is no programme like it. It’s very much a collaborative approach between the academic provider and us. We sat down with the university and helped build the content, as there were certain things that had to be covered off. Some of the assignments we provide are real-life Lidl case studies. You get the academic part – and you’re still immersed in the company. Whatever you learn, you’re getting to implement immediately,” she says.
Participants start with a three-month intensive operational training programme, in store or in a warehouse. That is where they will learn the core foundation of the business and will develop them to deputy store or logistics manager level.
The academic side starts in January, when students complete three week-long lecture blocks over a two-year period. When they’re not attending lecture blocks, they’re working in the store or warehouse and putting their classroom lessons into action in real-life scenarios.
“Because you don’t have to travel for two or three evenings a week for lectures, you can literally be based anywhere in Ireland,” Disdale confirms. “For the rest of the academic year you have Tuesdays off from your job to study or do assignments. We also hold webinars on those days, with experts from Lidl providing training and evaluation. There are six modules in year one and five in year two, covering everything from introduction to finance and accounts, retail environment, managing resources, leadership, retail logistics and the future of retail.”
Eligible to apply
Participants are made up of a mix of new recruits and existing Lidl employees from a range of business areas.
“Some are coming from other retailers and have never gotten an opportunity to further their education. We don’t accept applications from new school leavers, but we’re definitely interested in candidates who have retail experience – and if they have management experience that’s a bonus,” she adds.
The application process is streamlined – fill out an application form online and attach a CV. A numeric and verbal reasoning test is also done online. Candidates are then invited to interview: this year interviews will be held via video or phone, due to Covid-19.
Successful candidates can start any time up to September 30th, with applications opening on June 2nd. Tuition fees are fully paid for by the company, travel and accommodation is covered, and all participants are paid their full salary over the two years of the course.
[Lidl’s 2020 Feed Your Mind programme is now open for applications here]
Disdale says they were very clear they didn’t want a Lidl degree, meaning this qualification will be recognised wherever the graduate decides to go. Of course, it is their hope that many will want to stay within the Lidl family.
“We hope that everybody who wants to stay on will be able to stay on. If you stay within Lidl the world is your oyster,” she says. “There are fantastic development opportunities. There are so many success stories of people working their way up; there is no barrier to you.
“For people who do move on from the company, you get to take the qualification with you. We all know situations change and if you do leave, we hope one day you will come back to us. The door is always open.”
Rachel Brooks: "I did it"
Rachel Brooks is on the cusp of finishing Lidl’s Feed Your Mind programme. She tells us about her experience.
“Before this I worked as cabin crew for an airline and then as an assistant manager in a theatre in Dublin. I was attracted to the integrated approach of the programme – the symmetry between the operations and the academic side of it. I knew it would challenge me to venture outside my comfort zone, and I liked the idea of the level of personal development I would gain.
“I was in my position two or three weeks when my manager handed me the keys to the store – a huge responsibility. It meant I was responsible for leading the team, cash management, closure and restocking for the following day. But it showed the trust placed in me from day one.
“One word embodies the course: diverse. As clichéd as that sounds, no two days are the same and you’re constantly learning. I’ll never forget one of the first days on the course, in Belfast, we ended up in circus school as a team-building and ice-breaking exercise. We were on trapezes and tightropes for the day.
If you are looking to challenge yourself, the work you put in, and what you get back is so rewarding
“The programme is jam-packed and fast-paced. We could be in class having a lecture on the history of logistics or leadership style, then on a webinar with someone from the law department, telling us about their role and responsibilities – and how it impacts us.
“You have to balance your time but Lidl has a really strong support system in place to guide you. Your fellow students become a family and we support one another. We are in totally different parts of the country and in different streams, but there is that bond and when we come together for the week’s block learning, it’s like we’ve never been apart.
“From a learning perspective I’ve pushed myself, and my skills as a manager have grown. As a brand ambassador for the programme I’ve had really exciting opportunities to go behind the scenes, for example in the HR department to look at what goes into launching a campaign.
“It’s bittersweet that the programme is coming to an end, but it’s also very exciting, as there are so many opportunities and doors that can open to me now within the company. In the long run, I’m interested in progressing to become a sales operations manager but I also have an interest in the HR department.
“To anyone who is considering pursuing this, all I can say is go for it, 100 per cent. If you are looking to challenge yourself, the work you put in, and what you get back is so rewarding.”
Lidl’s 2020 Feed Your Mind programme is now open for applications here.
* Most Reputable Food Retailer in Ireland as per the recently released Ireland 2020 RepTrak report