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The chief executive of the House of Fraser, John King, has been selected as employer champion of the Diploma in Retail Business, the first national curriculum qualification for retailing. The British department store has agreed to throw its weight behind the Diploma to promote it within the sector, until it begins being taught in colleges and schools across England in 2010.

The qualification combines classroom study with workplace experience and retail-based learning for young people aged 14-19, and is just one of the Government's 17 new sector-linked Diplomas.

Mr King said: "It will give youngsters a thorough grounding in every aspect of retail - and set minimum standards in English, maths and IT - enabling them to make a difference from the day they start work.

"This is likely to help reduce our expensive and time consuming recruitment and training processes and increase staff retention. The Diploma will also boost the public image of retail by showing the wide range of rewarding careers it comprises from buying, selling and logistics to finance, fashion and management. Above all, by achieving the Diploma young people will be showing employers that they actively want to work in retail, a guarantee that we’ve never had before."

House of Fraser, which has 61 stores in the UK and Ireland, is set to play a key role within consortia, with senior staff giving talks and information to Diploma classes, and its stores will offer substantial work experience placements. Many House of Fraser stores will also hold retail information evenings for teachers and students.

The qualification has been developed by Skillsmart Retail, the Sector Skills Council for Retail, with the Institute of the Motor Industry and Skills for Logistics.

The chief executive of Skillsmart Retail, Anne Seaman, said: "We’re delighted that a retailer of John’s calibre has taken on this important role. His extensive experience and infectious enthusiasm will inspire other retailers to support the new Diploma in Retail Business. 

"We’re convinced that John’s backing will help this ground breaking qualification fulfil its promise in boosting the image of retail and attracting a new generation of talented young people."

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