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British Retail Consortium and Skillsmart Retail give qualified backing to apprenticeship expansion s

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Skillsmart Retail have offered their combined support for the Government’s renewed pledge to increase skills in the workplace.

The two organisations today welcomed Government plans to increase Apprenticeship numbers and encourage businesses to offer accredited training.

Jane Milne, Director of Business Environment at the BRC, said “Members of the BRC provide a variety of excellent training opportunities and we hope to see more offering accredited training in future.

“In the past generic vocational qualifications didn”t deliver the core competencies that employers require and, in response, employers have developed bespoke training packages. Accrediting these in-house programmes results in more relevant qualifications and gives businesses the recognition they deserve for investing in skills.”

Anne Seaman, CEO of Skillsmart Retail, the Sector Skills Council for Retail, said: “We welcome any moves by the Government to encourage skills development in the sector.

“Employers” formal accreditation of their training is an important part of raising skill levels and we commend the commitment to expand and strengthen the Apprenticeship programme in England.

“These moves have clear links with the qualifications and Apprenticeship strategies for retail which aim to increase uptake by driving up the quality of delivery of these programmes.”

However, the two groups are keen to ensure the plans are appropriate for the sector.

Anne Seaman of Skillsmart Retail said: “It is clear that companies wishing to set up as awarding bodies will have to carefully consider the implications, including being open to external scrutiny. Employers should be aware that there are a wide range of options available. We have been working very successfully with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and existing awarding bodies on ways for retailers to offer formal qualifications to their staff and this has worked very well for a range of companies. There are now a number of options available to retailers who wish to have their in-house training recognised and we would be happy to talk to them about potential solutions.”

On the Apprenticeship plan, Jane Milne of the BRC said: “While we are supportive of measures to increase the number of apprenticeships available, the Government must not sacrifice quality. Apprenticeships must be relevant and structured to ensure they are genuinely viewed as a useful alternative to traditional “academic” qualifications. It is also imperative that businesses are able to adapt their apprenticeship programmes to suit changing business needs.”

Anne Seaman added: “The proposed threshold for “suitably qualified” entrants to a level 2 or level 3 Apprenticeship could create barriers to recruitment within the retail sector. Although some retail Apprentices join the programme with low academic achievement, they thrive in a supportive working environment and many go on to progress to higher level positions within their companies. We would also seek to set our own requirements for a realistic minimum off-workstation learning time and not have a minimum imposed upon the sector.”

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