Large retailers shun sector skills council’s ailing skills scheme RetailPassport

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A flagship skills scheme for the retail sector has attracted just 2,000 users since its launch last year, with officials admitting it has “a long way to go” to hit its targets.

Sector skills council Skill­smart Retail launched the RetailPassport scheme in September 2006. The passport is an online profile that provides a complete record of all the training and skills an individual acquires throughout their career.

The scheme has been praised by Ian Cheshire, chief executive of B&Q and a former chairman of Skill­smart Retail, although the DIY giant has not adopted the passport for any of its 39,000 employees.

A spokesman for B&Q confirmed that the company had no plans to use the passport as it had developed its own scheme.

Jessica Wardle, head of business services at Skill­smart Retail, said: “We currently have 2,000 passport holders, but hope to increase that figure to between 20,000 and 30,000 holders by the end of 2008. We have a long way to go yet, but we are in the process of a dedicated marketing campaign to get RetailPassport into the industry.”

The council has also had discussions with additional patrons, including the chief executives of retailers Carphone Warehouse, Tesco, John Lewis, and Marks and Spencer, but with no confirmed takers to date.

However, the British Retail Consortium backed the passport, despite its slow take-up. “Any initiative that recognises workplace training is positive. A number of retailers believe there are benefits, particularly in terms of reducing unnecessary re-training,” a spokesman said.

The passport costs £10 a year and is transferable between employers. It can be paid for by the individual or the training provider.

The retail sector employs about three million people, or one in 10 of the working population, making it the UK’s largest employment sector.

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