A defence of retail apprenticeships

Just how much the retail sector contributes to the UK‘s economic success is often overlooked. It generates eight per cent of our GDP and over a third of all consumer spending goes through retailers. Moreover, the retail sector employs ten per cent of the entire UK workforce. That‘s why I‘m proud of the many exceptional apprenticeships that are being delivered through City & Guilds‘ retail partners and helping to boost the UK economy.

Apprenticeships are a key route for people getting into the retail sector and we have confidence in the effectiveness and return on investment provided by quality retail apprenticeships to the UK market, the employer and the individual. This was demonstrated by our recent report on the ‘Economic Value of Apprenticeships‘, published in February this year as part of our on-going Million Extra campaign – our commitment to work with employers, training providers and the Government to ensure one million apprenticeship places start by Summer 2013.

Our research reveals that UK businesses would benefit from a £4.37 billion boost if a million extra apprenticeship places are created by 2013. The retail sector would be one of the biggest beneficiaries, enjoying £64 million lift. So, not only will these apprenticeships inject a much needed financial boost into our struggling economy, but they will also help tackle the current unemployment levels and ensure that businesses have the skills they need for future growth.

Being part of the UK‘s leading vocational education provider City & Guilds is incredibly humbling, particularly when you consider the impact of strong vocational training in industries like retail, which can help pull us out of this tough economic climate. Maintaining the highest standards of training and qualifications in the UK is something that City & Guilds is understandably passionate about.

So, having watched ‘The Great Apprentice Scandal‘ on Monday 2 April, I was very disappointed that Panorama presented such a one-sided view of apprenticeships, helping to reinforce some of the most negative perceptions out there. The focus was on sub-standard training that delivers little or no value in the work place, rather than exploring the role apprenticeships can play in job creation, improving skill levels and supporting business growth.

Apprenticeships revealed as inadequate on Panorama included those in the retail sector. There is clearly evidence of poor practice among certain training providers, this does not fairly represent the wider landscape of apprenticeships in a sector where we‘re seeing some of the biggest growth, both in uptake from businesses and individuals. There is a much greater number of committed organisations who work together to make apprenticeship programmes a success.

It‘s critical for the success of UK plc that after decades of neglect we re-establish the apprenticeship model as an important route to a top career. As the awarding organisation that works with partners to deliver the largest numbers of apprenticeships in the UK, we are dedicated to high quality provision that improves lives and business performance and we are proud of the many exceptional apprenticeships that are being delivered through our customers.

Through City & Guilds for Business, the part of our organisation that works directly with employers, we get to see first-hand how valued apprenticeships are across all sectors. We only work with businesses whose values we feel align to our own and who want genuine investment in their people. Businesses who work with us to deliver apprenticeship programmes report benefits ranging from lower recruitment and retention costs through to greater productivity and increased revenues.

When it comes to learners, apprenticeships again prove their value. Apprentices have chosen a career path, and are gaining the skills to help them in an industry they feel passionate


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