Skills investment will offer retail boost

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'Investing in skills will strengthen UK retail' is the message being given from John Lewis Partnership chairman Charlie Mayfield and skills minister David Lammy as they meet with top retailers and MPs today.

The pair will urge retailers at Retail: A skilled future, to continue to invest in training during the current tough economic climate in order to maintain long term competitiveness. Along with Skillsmart Retail, they will also lay out their vision of a partnership between the retail industry and the goverment.

Mr Mayfield is set to speak about the need for a holistic and collaborative approach to skills and training and will highlight the work of the new UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), a new body bringing together government and business to drive the skills agenda. Other topics of interest include the need for retailers to nurture talent from school age through to the workplace.

He also plans to outline the John Lewis Partnership’s in-house training schemes as well as initiatives to sponsor courses and mentoring projects in the community. Mr Mayfield said: "In tough times, staffing levels are often one of the first areas to be targeted to cut costs. However, I believe that there should be an even sharper focus on enabling employees to fulfil their potential in an uncertain economic climate.

Speaking before the event, skills minister David Lammy said: "Businesses such as the John Lewis Partnership are recognising the importance of skills and are rising to the challenge by investing more in the skills of their workforce. Building the UK skills base is essential to allow businesses to compete in the globalised economy.

"We want to work with retail employers to make it easier for them to offer a wide range of apprenticeships, giving young people and adults the skills and qualifications that businesses value. I'd also urge employers of all sizes to access advice and funding available from Train to Gain."

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