Ulster University Business School and Lidl Work Together to boost retail careers through the expanding ‘Feed Your Mind’ degree programme

Ulster University Business School (UUBS) has welcomed over 50 students on the innovative LIDL ‘Feed Your Mind’ degree programme, a foundation Degree in Management Practice, on to the new state-of-the-art Belfast campus.

By Claire Cartmill
Thursday, 2nd December 2021, 6:00 am

This two-year degree course with specialism in retail, commissioned by Lidl and developed by UUBS in conjunction with Irish Times Training, allows students to fast-track their careers with one of the world’s most ambitious global retailers via extra qualifications, hands on work experience and a full salary.

This opportunity is open to both external applicants and existing Lidl employees and successful candidates are given a two-year fixed-term contract in the role of either deputy store manager or deputy logistics manager. They will earn a university-accredited foundation degree in management practice with specialism in retail and they will boost their career prospects: all of those who have completed the programme to date have secured permanent management positions in a variety of business areas within the company

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the programme has continued to build on its success. The unique programme started in 2018 and demand and places have increased every year since, from just over 800 applications in 2018 with 17 placed on to the programme, to almost 2,400 applications last year with 60 students.

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UUBS lecturers and Lidl leaders with David, a current student on the programme and store manager of the Crumlin Road Lidl Store

While the retail sector has been affected in different ways as a result of the pandemic, the programme is evidence that there are still significant opportunities in growth areas: offering an alternative for someone who is looking for a new opportunity following the impact of the pandemic on the hospitality sector, for example.

Rachel Sherrard, senior lecturer in management development, UUBS, said: “This is a course which is bespoke to Lidl, designed hand in glove with the team there to meet their exact needs in developing a pipeline of talented and confident leaders of the future. We are working together to develop the next generation of leaders who have the necessary skills and attributes to drive future growth of both the retail sector and local economy.”

Siobhra Disdale, senior talent management specialist at Lidl Ireland/Adele Lyle, senior talent management specialist at Lidl NI, explained: “We are proud to work together with Ulster University to offer this successful, fully-funded degree course and exceptional opportunity for those in the early stages of retail and logistics management who are hungry to fast-track their career with a leading global retailer.

“Participants uniquely benefit from a blended learning structure of in-store operations, access to a wealth of experienced management personnel and mentors and industry-leading academic learning, all underpinned by an attractive salary package. It has been amazing to see this year’s cohort present their innovative ideas here on Ulster University’s progressive new campus. We are proud of all of those talented individuals who have progressed through the course and into our managerial ranks.”

Students join Siobhra Disdale, Senior Talent Management Specialist at Lidl Ireland and Rachel Sherrard, Senior Lecturer in Management Development, UUBS on the new Belfast Campus

Students on the programme have been on campus to take part in a group project, pitching a business innovation or improvement idea to Lidl and UUBS leaders as part of their learning experience.

Conn Taggart, deputy manager of the Carrickfergus store: “I’ve had a great experience on the programme so far at six months in - I have truly enjoyed every minute. I was motivated to apply as I really wanted to work in this role with Lidl and to learn as I went along - to get a degree at the same time as working and earning a salary. I went to school in Belfast and it is amazing to see such an ultra-modern Campus built right in the city centre - I’ve loved learning here so far.”

David Henderson from Belfast is a Lidl assistant store manager for the Crumlin Road Store: “I didn’t quite have an ordinary route into higher education. I left school at 15 without any qualifications. I did an essentials skills course then NVQs in supervision and management to level 4 and then I joined Lidl and this degree programme.

“It’s a great opportunity for anyone - bringing work together with academic learning. I would definitely recommend this course to anyone who hasn’t come through the traditional route, being a mature student has been great. Lidl have been great - we have one day off a week to study, combined with all the help of my course director Rachel, and all at Ulster University, it has definitely been a journey to remember.”

Jake Baranow is Assistant Store Manager of the High Street Store, just around the corner from the new Ulster University Belfast campus. He is originally from Derbyshire but now calls Northern Ireland home: “I used to work in retail in England and when I moved here and was job hunting, I saw that there was a degree programme attached to the job with Lidl so that drew me to this opportunity.

“Previously, I used to try and do everything myself but this programme has taught me to take a step back, think more strategically about using the leadership and management techniques I’ve been taught and do things differently. The new Belfast campus is brilliant - it’s an inspiring building for sure.”

The students don’t just hail from these shores, around one third of this year’s cohort are international, including participants from Serbia, Latvia, Croatia, Poland and further afield.

Ulster University’s city centre campus will enable closer working links with industry, like this successful programme. If you would like to access business support solutions or would like to discuss management development needs please contact UUBS’s Business Engagement team at [email protected]

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