Leading retail bosses have called on HR functions to embrace diplomas and apprenticeships as a means of developing long-lasting talent within the sector.
Justin King, chief executive of Sainsbury’s, and John King, chief executive of House of Fraser, spoke at the Skillsmart Retail parliamentary reception to urge employers to use apprenticeship and diploma schemes to attract young people to the sector for a career rather than just a temporary job.
Justin King told Personnel Today that apprenticeships and diplomas were vital to give people a real sense of achievement and motivation to achieve success within the industry.
“I think people have the ability to see the fruits of their labour through apprenticeships and diplomas, as they are given a nationally recognised qualification. We have underestimated the power of something being official and structured; it has a very powerful effect,” he said.
He added that HR’s continued investment in training and development was essential for engagement and retention of staff in the longterm. He strongly believesthat training provisions at Sainsbury’s have encouraged 4,500 employees to stay with the company for over 25 years.
“One of the reasons why our business is trading successfully is because we have continued to invest in the skills of our people” he said.
“Companies that pull back on training send a clear message to their employees about where they stand in the company’s priorities. Cutting back on training hurts you now and in the future; it tells staff how serious [or otherwise] you are about them.”
John Kingadded that it was essential people were made aware of the huge range of jobs on offer in retail through both apprenticeship and diploma schemes.
He said: “There is a wealth of career opportunities in retail. We need to make people aware that the retail sector is a serious career opportunity. It’s not just [about] stacking shelves; we also need designers, accountants and IT experts, for example.
“Diplomas and apprenticeships are a great way to get kids into retail. The qualification will give youngsters a thorough grounding in every aspect of retail and a new set of skills and knowledge that will enable them to make a difference.”
The two retail chiefs helped the skills council Skillsmart Retail to develop a new diploma in retail business, which will begin in September 2010.
In May, 120,000 Sainsbury’s staff cashed in on a £60m bonus pool after the supermarket chain reported an 11.3% increase in annual profits.