Over three-quarters of UK retailers have pledged to increase the number of apprenticeship training placements they offer over the next two years.
At the start of National Apprenticeship Week 2018, new data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) revealed that 86 per cent of retailers said they were committed to ramping up apprenticeship training.
In England, retailers said they would increase the number of higher and advanced apprenticeships offered in 2017/18 by more than two-and-a-half times compared to the previous year.
The BRC said retailers saw apprenticeships as key to developing their future workforce and responding to the significant transformation taken place in their sector.
These include new technologies entering the workplace and the growth of higher skilled roles.
“Apprenticeships present a real opportunity to develop the skills base the retail industry of the future needs,” the BRC said.
Chief executive of the BRC, Helen Dickinson, added: “National Apprenticeship Week is a great opportunity to celebrate apprenticeships and raise awareness of the opportunities out there.
“In our industry alone apprenticeship opportunities span customer facing positions, specialist digital and technical roles, support functions and there are more standards still in development.”
Dickinson said, almost a year after the Apprenticeship levy was introduced, that the number of retailers keen to expand their apprenticeship numbers demonstrated the industry’s “ongoing commitment” to improving its workforce.
Indeed, ahead of National Apprenticeship Week, ecommerce giant Amazon said it will be recruiting a further 170 apprentices in its UK fulfilment centres.
However, Dickinson cautioned that there were still issues with the levy that need to be resolved to allow the industry to do more.
“Further flexibility is still needed,” she said. “One in five respondents reported difficulties recruiting for apprenticeships, particularly for the less traditional retail roles such as software engineers and food technologists.
“The breadth of opportunity in retail needs to be recognized and promoted by employers, educators and government alike.”
Her warning follows the Department for Education’s apprenticeship and levy statistics for November 2017, which showed that the number of apprenticeship starts across UK employers fell to 27,000 from 41,600 in the same month in 2016.
The retailers who responded to the BRC survey employ more than 845,000 retail workers, equivalent to 29 per cent of the retail workforce in the UK. They varied in size and operate in different areas of the sector including food, clothing and health and beauty.
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