Najib Nazari

Education & training

When apprentices run the show

For two weeks, a group of apprentices have been running the Migros supermarket in Gebenstorf AG on their own. They've been in charge of everything from stocking shelves and checkout planning through to general store management. Our author went along to do a half-day's work.

Ralf Kaminski

«Do you like mushrooms?» Najib Nazari wants to know. I look up at the tall tower of pallets full of mushrooms and nod. «Good, they're relatively easy,» says the 19-year-old apprentice, who is responsible for the fruit and veg department at Migros Gebenstorf this week. This involves making sure that all the racks and refrigerated shelves are fully stocked with products before customers enter the shop at 8 am.

However, it's almost eight now and there's still lots to do. «We're running a little behind today because a colleague is off sick,» Najib explains. So, it's helpful if he doesn't have to spend too much time explaining things to me (a newbie to the job) and can get on with his own work instead.

It's not too hard though because there's a range number of mushroom varieties. There's one firm rule that applies to all other racks and shelves too – the products with the earliest expiry date go at the front and top and all others go at the back and bottom. And, if anything from the day before doesn't look so good anymore – take it out.

Najib explains to Ralf Kaminski (guest employee) how to arrange the mushroom products.

I get to work on the mushrooms, whilst Najib turns his attention to the lettuce and broccoli pallets. White mushrooms, brown mushrooms, mixed, organic, regional, loose and pre-packed – all the different varieties need to be sorted by date and arranged nicely in the correct place. I do my best, but I'm obviously a lot slower than the pros.

A taste of what it's like to be in charge

Before I started on the mushrooms, I'd done an hour in the dairy section, which was considerably more difficult. First of all, you have to find the products in the huge, refrigerated cabinet and then, so to speak, fill up from the back to make sure products with the earliest expiry dates are at the front. Afterwards, I'll be helping in the refrigerated convenience foods section, where I'll be looking for products that expire today. Using a scanner and mini printer, these products will then be marked with a new price sticker making them a third cheaper.

Supervising me in all these tasks is a group of apprentices, who explain to me what I need to do and keep an eye on me to make sure I'm doing everything correctly. This is because for the past ten days Migros Gebenstorf has been run by 15 young trainees.

This week, Selennur Yöney (17) is Store Manager and therefore in charge of the whole branch. Just before 10 am, she surveys the supermarket carefully to make sure all shelves have been stocked correctly and are looking good. «There's too many grapes piled up over there, that's not good. They're very sensitive to pressure,» she explains and makes a mental note. «It's also important to pay attention to any gaps. They occur when we don't receive new product supplies and we need to find out what's happened.» However, all in all, Selennur is satisfied. She will now discuss any critical points with those responsible for the respective departments, who, like her, are also apprentices.

All the apprentices in charge of the shop this week applied to take part in the Next Generation Weeks programme, with some of them even applying specifically for the roles they are working in today. «I've really learned a lot, which is what I'd hoped for,» says Selennur. Najib explains that it has been a very motivating experience, providing insight into what his future will hopefully look like. Livia Egli (18), who is Head of Dairy this week, has had a similar experience. «It's exciting to be able to take on so much responsibility.»

Educational and enjoyable

Piotr Brzozowski (19) is another apprentice who has been enjoying these responsibilities. Today, he finds himself dealing with a rush of people on checkout two and is conscious of making sure there's always enough coins in the cash register. «The majority of people who still pay in cash give us notes.» He takes out a few large notes from the cash register, puts them in a money bag and heads into the cash office where there's a safe. With the help of Michel Liechti (34) – the usual Store Manager who's on call for the duration of these two weeks –, he deposits the notes in the safe and takes out the equivalent value in coins for the cash register.