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The Independent Online

I've just started at sixth form college doing business studies, French and English literature. Assuming everything goes well, I already know that I want to do a degree in retail, but there seem to be so many different choices. What should I go for?

Natalie, 17, Sheffield

The retail sector has numerous opportunities in a range of careers, many of which are not directly visible to the public, such as marketing, buying functions, accounts, human resource management, product development, and logistics. Many of these roles will see positions filled by staff with degrees in specific areas such as accountancy, HRM and product development.</p>

However, the sector also needs graduates who are able to work across a range of subjects and have a deeper understanding of the retail sector. With this type of route you probably have three main options. The first is to study a degree that may not be tailored explicitly to the retail sector, such as business management or marketing. More specifically, your second option could be to take a degree route such as retail management or retail marketing. This would allow you to develop a strong understanding of the broad background, development and scope of the sector, coupled with an underpinning of management knowledge and skills. The broader knowledge of retail and business will give you a skills base that can be taken to employers both within and outside the sector. Your final option could be to take a joint or combined style of degree. A number of institutions will allow you to combine retail with a range of subjects, from languages through to nutrition or consumer studies.

Richard Bent, senior lecturer in retail business, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh

For the past two years, I have worked as a merchandise assistant, but I have seen a position that I really want at another retailer. I am going to send my CV but I don't think it gives a complete version of myself and my abilities. Since I started working in my current job, I have done lots of training courses that have really helped me, but I have no qualifications or certificates to show for it. Will my potential employers take my word for it or do I just not bother putting these details on my CV?
James, 22, Glasgow

Unfortunately your situation is not uncommon. Responsible retailers will always train staff to make sure employees are reaching their full potential and doing their jobs effectively, but often no official or verifiable record of on-the-job training is kept.

At High and Mighty, we piloted a successful scheme called RetailPassport which was designed to address this very problem by providing a verifiable online record of qualifications and training an employee gets throughout their career. The RetailPassport is now widely available and comes in the form of a photocard with an online profile. Basically, your employer or the body that has provided the training can verify your skills record to make sure it shows everything from your GCSEs to your most recent vocational merchandising training.

<p>On the website, www.retailpassport.co.uk, you can upload all your training and qualifications online. Essentially, you can then use that as your resumé or send details with your CV. This way, your prospective employers will get a fuller picture of your capabilities and experience and you will be able to present them with all your skills and attributes. Good luck!</p>

Nicky Hillier, personnel manager, High and Mighty

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