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Skills investment will offer retail boost

Charlie Mayfield and David Lammy MP address top retailers and MPs

‘Investing in skills will strengthen UK retail.’ This will be the message from John Lewis Partnership Chairman Charlie Mayfield and Skills Minister David Lammy as they address top retailers and MPs at a Skillsmart Retail parliamentary event on Thursday (June 5).
The pair will urge retailers at Retail: A skilled future to continue to invest in training during the current tough economic climate in order to maintain long term competitiveness.

They will join Skillsmart Retail in laying out their vision of working in partnership with the Government, and investing in employees in order to strengthen the industry.

Mr Mayfield will speak of the need for a holistic and collaborative approach to skills and training. He will highlight the work of the new UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), a new body bringing together government and business to drive the skills agenda.

He will also speak of the need for retailers to nurture talent from school age through to the workplace. He will outline the John Lewis Partnership’s in-house training schemes as well as initiatives to sponsor courses and mentoring projects in the community.  A number of John Lewis Partners will also attend the event to talk about their experiences of these initiatives and how they have benefited from learning and development opportunities.

Mr Mayfield said “In tough times, staffing levels are often one of the first areas to be targeted to cut costs. However, I believe that there should be an even sharper focus on enabling employees to fulfil their potential in an uncertain economic climate.

“Skills development is about investing in the long-term success of the business. Those retailers with a solid commitment to the future development of their employees will be best placed to trade through a downturn.

“We will maintain the staffing level required to deliver the high level of service that customers expect of us because we want their long term loyalty, even if it costs us short term profit. By enabling Partners to work across the business in the areas of greatest need we can maintain service levels and control costs.”

Skills Minister David Lammy encouraged retailers to offer apprenticeships, make the skills pledge and access support and funding from the Government’s flagship Train to Gain programme in order to unlock the talent of their employees and improve their business performance.  

Mr Lammy said "Businesses such as the John Lewis Partnership are recognising the importance of skills and are rising to the challenge by investing more in the skills of their workforce. Building the UK skills base is essential to allow businesses to compete in the globalised economy. We want to work with retail employers to make it easier for them to offer a wide range of apprenticeships, giving young people and adults the skills and qualifications that businesses value. I’d also urge employers of all sizes to access advice and funding available from Train to Gain."

Martin Beaumont, Chair of Skillsmart Retail and former Chief Executive of The Co-operative Group said “There is some very good work being done in all areas of the sector, and I believe that if we build on this by using tools such as the Diploma in Retail Business, the National Skills Academy for Retail and Apprenticeships we can win our share of talent and use it to develop our businesses to maximum effect.”

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