Skills passport will help retail workers to benefit from their experience

The challenge

With today’s transient workforce, more people are moving around the retail sector, so it is difficult to keep track of employee skills. Each year, the sector spends billions of pounds retraining staff who have already been trained, simply because their training has not been properly recorded.

Furthermore, there is a lot of informal on-the-job training in the retail sector that is often not recognised. Recent research also found that there are a high number of fraudulent CVs now in circulation in the UK.

Employers, therefore, need a way of getting an accurate record of all their employees’ skills and training, and of making sure they are hiring the right people.

The solution

Skillsmart Retail, the Sector Skills Council for the retail sector, has come up with the RetailPassport, which provides a complete record of all the training and skills individuals acquire throughout their careers. Unlike a standard CV, this is a verified record of educational and vocational skills and qualifications in the form of a photocard and online profile.

Skillsmart Retail trialled the passport between March and September 2006 at retailer High and Mighty, and the largest ferry operator in the UK, P&O. High and Mighty had 42 people using passports and P&O had 30. Both used a system pioneered by a company called PurplePassport, which creates skills records systems for employers.

The results of the pilot were very positive. High and Mighty said the Passport has en­abled it to recognise the skills staff have developed. And P&O found that it has provided the company with a searchable database of the skills and training in the firm.

Employer benefits

The RetailPassport, with its verified record of an individual’s skills and training, helps employers to make sure they are recruiting the right people and avoid unnecessary retraining costs. The passport also helps set a benchmark for recruitment into the retail sector.

There are also benefits to employees too, as the passport provides them with an easy way of keeping track of all their skills, experience and qualifications. They can use this as a portfolio at job interviews, pulling up all of their skills and sorting them by section, such as vocational awards, retail skills, health and safety training, and so on.

Employers benefit because the RetailPassport gives their organisation an effective way of maintaining staff training methods along with a comprehensive skills databank. This allows them to identify any training gaps, not only in core retail skills, but also in product specialisms.

For example, P&O found the passport’s searchable database invaluable. In allowing it to search by a particular skill area, it enabled HR to identify any skills gaps and better manage a mobile workforce.

And because it provides a way for retail employees to have their skills recognised, the RetailPassport encourages employee advancement, which in turn helps to improve staff retention.

In fact, the passport gives employees control because they own it and are responsible for adding to it. They can put in all the practical and formal qualifications and other skills they acquire over their career.

All of this can be verified by employers, educational establishments or recruitment agencies, so the skills and qualifications an employee presents are genuine.

The RetailPassport can help people to plan a career path, and it forms the basis of a personal development plan. Employees keep their passport as they move on, so it provides a credible record for future employers. The passport also helps to attract new employees, and improves the employability of individuals.

The future

Following the successful pilot, the RetailPassport scheme has now been launched UK-wide by Skillsmart Retail. High and Mighty has decided to introduce the passport in all its UK stores by April and P&O is hoping to extend the passport throughout its business. Skillsmart Retail developed the RetailPassport with PurplePassport to address some of the key issues facing the retail sector.

The pilot was funded by the South East England Development Agency and the Learning and Skills Council.

Key facts

1 More people are moving around the retail sector, making it difficult to keep track of skills.

2 Employers need a way of getting an accurate record of staff skills and training, and of making sure they are employing the right people.

3 Skillsmart Retail’s RetailPassport provides a complete record of all the training and skills an individual acquires throughout their career.

4 The RetailPassport helps employers to avoid unnecessary retraining costs and identify any training gaps.

5 Employees have an easy way of keeping track of all their practical and formal qualifications.

Employer view

“I think the whole initiative is extremely useful. The RetailPassport in time could be recognised by all employers of the retail industry who could use this as a measuring tool for interviews.”
Deane Robinson, assistant general manager, P&O

“Taking part in the pilot was exciting and what is to come even more so. We want to sufficiently empower all of our staff to take greater responsibility for their achievements and learning. In time, when people are really geared up to using it to its fullest potential, it will make the reviewing of skills and learning much easier.”
Nicky Hillier, HR manager, High and Mighty

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