Retail gets the go-ahead for Apprenticeships programme

Apprenticeship programmes will be launched in the retail sector from September 2006. The new two-year Apprenticeships in retail programme is targeted at 14- to16-year-olds who are predicted to achieve at least five A* to C grades at GCSE. The programmes will provide retail learning for 225 apprentices across the majority of English regions in the first two years.

Pupils will spend two days a week learning about retail alongside their core GCSE curriculum. As part of the course, the students will also undertake 50 days in work experience positions with local retailers. As well as achieving their GSCEs, the apprentices will gain valuable retail qualifications that will allow them to fast-track into post-16 apprenticeships or go on to further education.

Retail employers see the Apprenticeships programme as a way of attracting bright young talent into the sector. By combining work experience and vocational learning together with GCSEs, the programme will also help apprentices acquire the work ethics and customer-facing skills that employers are looking for when taking on new recruits.

Students make a splash at Waterfront

This April, Belfast Institute BSc fashion management students put their training into practice by organising and running A Fashion Tale - three fashion shows at Belfast's Waterfront Hall. The final year students who formed the event management team were responsible for all aspects of the show, including raising sponsorship. ASDA Group Northern Ireland came on board as the main sponsor and the students also managed to persuade GMTV presenter Emma-Louise Johnston to act as their compere.

This professional show is now firmly established on the Northern Ireland fashion calendar, providing a platform for around 50 designers to exhibit both individual and group collections. Garments and collections modelled on the catwalk included womenswear, menswear, childrenswear, casual day wear and sportswear.

Students also instigated a fashion design competition for schools across Northern Ireland, with the winning finalists having their designs made up and modelled on the catwalk by professional models.

Programme helps bakers rise to the challenge

Sainsbury's has become the first supermarket to develop a retail apprenticeship with a specialism in bakery. Developed in partnership with the sector skills council, Skillsmart Retail, the 18-month programme is an opportunity for young people to develop a career in retail.

Julia Read, Sainsbury's project manager for the apprenticeship, says: "The number of skilled bakers is declining. In response, we are launching this dedicated initiative to attract people back into the trade and hone the skills of our future bakers."

The apprenticeship scheme provides trainees aged over 16 with nationally-recognised qualifications, including a Level 2 NVQ, key literacy and numeracy skills and a Technical Certificate. A total of 30 apprentices will be recruited this year.

Retail information now online

Sector skills council Skillsmart Retail now has a new section on its website devoted to careers in retail. Visit for important information on getting qualified for and working in the retail sector. It covers everything from career paths and case studies to course searches and apprenticeships.

As the largest private sector employer, with nearly three million people employed across the UK, retail has created more jobs than any other sector over the last five years. So whether you're looking for a career in retail or advising someone on their options, you'll find this section a handy source of information.

Survey reveals top employers

In what is believed to be the biggest ever retailer-on-retailer survey, over 1,500 retail professionals have identified the companies that they most admire. The Adgrafix survey reveals that over 30 per cent of the survey respondents cited the UK's largest retailer, Tesco, as their most admired retailer. John Lewis Partnership, Arcadia and Marks & Spencer secured second, third and fourth place respectively.

According to the poll, while the 'most admired reputation' status was won by Tesco and Arcadia largely due to their commercial success, John Lewis Partnership swayed the voters with its reputation as a fair employer.

The survey was also designed to help assess just important a retailer's reputation is to potential employees and the factors that would most motivate them when selecting a prospective employer. Commercial success was the most important factor for survey participants (36.1 per cent), followed by quality of products and services (16.4 per cent) and reputation as a forward-thinking company (16.3 per cent).