Greg Smith MP gets behind Retail Apprenticeships in celebration of National Apprenticeship Week 2020

Greg Smith MP is supporting careers in retail in celebration of National Apprenticeship Week (NAW2020), highlighting the benefits of an apprenticeship in retail to individuals, local communities and the wider economy.

The ‘Look Beyond’ themed week, running from 3 to 7 February 2020, is the 13th annual National Apprenticeship Week (NAW2020) and will see a range of activities and events being hosted across the country, aimed at challenging the outdated views many people still have about apprenticeships and careers in retail. 

Greg attended the British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) drop-in event at Parliament to learn about the career offerings within retail and to meet apprentices who are currently working for retailers including Sainsbury’s, John Lewis, Pret a Manger, Joules, The Company Shop, KFC and McDonald’s. 

As the retail industry continues to transform, retailers point to apprenticeships as an important pathway to futureproofing their business. Today, 100,000 people are employed in retail jobs that did not exist ten years ago, such as data scientists. Current apprenticeship programmes offered in retail cover a huge variety of jobs, including digital marketing, retail team leader, supply chain, engineering, finance, HR, property, food science, software development and warehouse operatives.
 
Nonetheless, challenges remain if the apprenticeship scheme is to meet its full potential. Recent figures indicate apprenticeship starts are falling and retailers have identified the inflexibility in funding rules as a key barrier to the future growth of the scheme. Currently, there are overly restrictive limitations on what Apprenticeship Levy funds can be spent on, meaning retailers are unable to fully engage with the policy and make the most of apprenticeships. 

Greg said: “I am delighted to be supporting careers in retail as part of National Apprenticeship week to showcase the many opportunities that come from securing an apprenticeship in retail. 

“The skills required in the retail industry are changing, with greater demand for skills in areas such as digital services and technology. It is therefore important that young people really look at the opportunities a career within retail can provide and consider an apprenticeship. 
 
“I commend retailers for using apprenticeships to equip their workforce with the skills they need as well as bringing new talent into the workplace.  It is important for Government to work with the industry to provide greater funding flexibility to ensure that retail has a workforce fit for the future.” 

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Retail is an industry of opportunities. Many retail careers that started in the stockroom, end in the boardroom. Such opportunities rely on clear opportunities for training and progression. Together we must embrace the training opportunities that exist and share them with those outside our industry.

“The BRC Apprenticeship Survey found that that 95% of retailers plan to increase the number of apprenticeships they offer over the next two years. We urge Government to address the need for increased flexibility in the way firms can use their apprenticeship levy funds, including allowing for any form of accredited training.”