New Sector Skills Council for the retail sector

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Ivan Lewis MP, Minister for Adult Skills at the Department for Education has launched Skillsmart - the Sector Skills Council for the retail sector – yesterday by presenting the Sector Skill Licence to Belinda Earl, Chief Executive of Debenhams plc, and Chair of Skillsmart.

Skillsmart is a wholly owned subsidiary of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), and is now one of five ‘trailblazers’ established by the Government to trial the SSC concept. Skillsmart will represent the whole of the retail sector including non-BRC members.

The Minister said: "The challenge for Skillsmart is to lead the way in developing a cohesive and strategic approach to training in the retail sector, keeping the industry at the cutting edge and bridging the gap between the education sector and business. The industry is a major source of new jobs with 105,000 being created in 2000-2001 and Skillsmart has a key role to play in promoting these job opportunities to the workforce by creating a positive image of retail as an exciting, worthwhile and rewarding career choice with real opportunities for career development, progression and job satisfaction as this will make a vital contribution to the long term success of the sector."

Belinda Earl said: “The retail market place is intensely competitive, influenced largely by globalisation, technology and consumer demands. Given this, the ability to recruit, retain and develop quality people with the right skills is critical to improving profitability and market share. With labour productivity crucial to the control of costs and therefore prices, a knowledgeable, skilled and motivated workforce is essential to business success.

“Employers want a shop floor qualification that is relevant, free of bureaucracy and offering good value and I am delighted that we have made progress on developing such a model to the point where we are now confident of marketing it to the sector. Skillsmart has been working in partnership with the awarding body, LCCIEB together with Selfridges, Asda and Safeway on a model which allows companies with robust training programmes to map these onto occupational standards. Using their own training they will be able to award a Certificate in Practical Retailing.

“In supporting SME retailers Skillsmart recognise that they will need very different support from that of larger retailers. We are working with a range of SMEs, their representative trade bodies and Manchester Metropolitan University to clearly identify the issues and to work up possible solutions. One project that we are already working to put in place is a system to kite mark training consultants working for learning providers who work with SME retailers.

Skillsmart’s declared long-term vision is to change the public perception of the retail sector to one that offers outstanding employment and career opportunities, raising sector performance through the provision of high quality training and the opportunity to pursue qualifications.

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