Retailers register quality providers

Retailers and trade associations are trying to eliminate the risk in buying
training services by establishing a register of appropriately qualified
trainers and training companies. The project is being co-ordinated by the new
Retail Sector Skills Council known as Skillsmart, which was launched last

Judith Wilkins, head of small business development for Skillsmart, is
co-ordinating the project. "Many retailers – particularly smaller ones –
are constantly being bombarded by training organisations and trainers offering
help," she said. "However, many have little or no experience of
retail and, therefore, lack the understanding needed to provide workable

"Many of these businesses end up either buying inappropriate services
or failing to find a provider."

The register has already been piloted with trainers who assisted in
developing the paperwork and standards. Launch dates in June and July are being
mooted. Quality measures under discussion include experience, work history and
references. A record of working in the retail sector or in other specialist
functions will also be taken into account.

Training companies deemed suitable will be awarded a Kite Mark and
individual training consultants will be listed on the professional register.
Individual consultants will be able to apply for the full Kite Mark should they
be able to meet more stringent standards.

The idea is being welcomed across the industry. "Finding the right
provider can be difficult even for larger businesses with dedicated training
functions," said Anthea MacDonald, training manager for Oxford, Swindon
and Gloucester Co-op.

"The register and Kite Mark will go a long way towards removing a
headache. Trainers and providers I work with also see the value in getting the
mark, as they know this will help cut down the number of individuals selling
themselves as some-thing they are not, and will help genuine providers to
market their services."

The scheme is one of the first steps in Skillsmart’s strategy to increase
productivity across the retail sector and present the sector as offering a
quality career option.

Skillsmart chairperson Belinda Earl, who is chief executive of high street
department store Debenhams, is keen to stress that "quality people with
the right skills will be crucial to improving productivity and market

"With labour productivity so crucial to costs -and therefore prices – a
knowledgeable, skilled and motivated workforce will be essential to business
success," she said.

Skillsmart replaces the Distributive Trades National Training Organisations
which lost their Government recognition in March 2002.

By Stephanie Sparrow

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