The National Skills Academy for Retail (NSA for Retail) is trailblazing an innovative new training programme which is aimed at giving young people across England an opportunity to kick-start a career in retail.
The Retail Apprenticeship Scheme (RAS) is a new concept which aims to unearth and develop the best young recruits for small to medium sized retailers.
A survey commissioned by the Retail Apprenticeship Training Agency (RATA) which manages the scheme revealed that only 10 per cent of retailers had offered apprenticeships under government schemes in the past five years while only 3% were currently using an apprentice. The survey revealed that a key barrier was the perception that 16 – 18 year olds are low skilled. The Retail Apprenticeship Scheme aims to address this issue. SME retailers who sign up to the scheme will be provided with a cost-free and comprehensive recruitment service, which will match them up with a suitable apprentice. Each apprentice will be employed by RATA to reduce the risk, cost, time and administration for retailers.
As part of the programme, each young person will be fully assessed and given extensive pre-employment training, to ensure they are job-ready. RAS is open to all independent retailers in England– all that retailers have to do is place a vacancy with the agency, and one of the NSA for Retail’s network of regional skills shops will do the rest.
Retail is the largest private sector employer in the UK with 189,000 businesses, 2.8 million employees and an annual turnover of £325billion. High street and independent retailers make up for a huge portion of this, creating a vital economy for local villages, towns and city centres.
Jane Rexworthy, chief executive of the NSA for Retail, said: “This is a brand new approach to apprenticeships, with RATA recruiting, training, assessing, and looking after all the HR issues for each learner. Employers simply pay a small weekly fee to cover agency and apprentice wage costs.
“This isn’t about creating short-term jobs – we are aiming to launch a new generation of retail leaders and entrepreneurs in England, with the talent and ability to forge a long-term and successful career within the retail sector. Opportunities will be created in all areas of the retail sector – from developing entrepreneurial skills from business owners, to working as part of a marketing, IT or finance team, to joining an independent shop where learners will be given the opportunity to gain all of the skills necessary to run an independent retail outlet. This is an exciting time to work in the retail sector, with a wealth of opportunities for young people to progress into senior roles and earn a very good salary.
“We are creating a two-pronged approach, geared towards both young people and retail businesses of all sizes that may be looking to take on apprentice.
“It has been proven that apprentices develop a real loyalty and engagement with their workplace. They can be trained to suit your exact business needs and at the same time, employers are demonstrating a real commitment to their community, by retaining high calibre young people within their local economy.”
Throughout the placement, RATA retains the responsibility and management of the apprentice, while independent retailers may also qualify for a £1,500 apprenticeship grant to support them through the scheme.
Rexworthy added: “We will support the employer throughout and all we ask is that businesses can provide a full time placement, with a minimum of 30 hours per week, for one year, in a safe working environment.
“If the apprentice is not suitable or a change in employer circumstances occurs, apprentices can be referred back to RATA. At the end of the programme, the apprentice will have a nationally recognised retail qualification and fantastic work experience on their CV, while the employer will have a fully trained member of staff with the option of taking them on permanently.”