The retail industry can help drive the Northern Irish economy forward and improve the skillset of the nation, according to Employment and Learning Minister Danny Kennedy.
Commenting at this week’s Northern Ireland parliamentary Growing Investment in Northern Ireland Retail Skills reception, the minister identified the retail sector as a business area that has the potential to grow if the right investment is made.
Kennedy said: “We are undoubtedly in a time of economic challenge, but what we do now in terms of our investment in skills will help determine how well placed Northern Ireland will be to benefit from the recovery when it comes.
“My department has a variety of training programmes and initiatives. Employers and employees in the retail sector can benefit from these, as can individuals interested in a career in retail.
“These can assist in improving the skills base of current employees as well as getting people into work in the sector.”
His comments echo those of the British Retail Consortium, which regularly calls on the government to allow the retail industry to help the British economy grow.
The group claims the sector can create much needed jobs and ensure high streets remain integral to local communities if current regulatory burdens are lifted and new red tape is avoided in the months ahead.
Like the UK as a whole, retail is the largest private sector employer in Northern Ireland and employs around 73,500 people in 6,420 different businesses, according to sector skills council Skillsmart Retail.
Just over one-third of these companies do not currently provide any form of training, but organisations such as Skillsmart are working with the Department for Employment and Learning to change this situation.