The Retailer Spring_09.05_FA


Time to take stock of your apprenticeship programme

Olive Gardiner Director of National Accounts Babcock International Group

WITH APPRENTICESHIP LEVY FUNDS STARTING TO EXPIRE THIS SPRING, THE TIME TO ACT IS NOW SAY MAJOR RETAILERS. Spring: the season of transformation and renewal. Warmer weather, the clocks change and new ranges hitting the shelves. This spring we’re navigating Brexit, the most significant transfor- mation the country has seen in decades. April heralded the second anniversary of the apprenticeship levy, the date when any unused levy funds start to expire. To mark this milestone, a number of major retailers offered views about apprenticeships. Apprenticeships: an ideal way to attract, develop and retain staff When you consider around 6% of the retail workforce are EU citizens and we’re seeing historically low unemployment levels, the retail sector could be facing a very real skills challenge. Apprenticeships can play a vital role in filling vacancies and developing a workforce to meet future challenges. Julie Brayson, Head of Organisational Development at Card Factory, talks about how apprenticeships help build a leadership culture. “Our programmes are rooted in our values. We’re encouraging our colleagues to become leaders. We’re giving back to our loyal colleagues by offering them opportunities for development and the chance to build careers. “We’re also looking to develop future assistant managers with a pilot programme to encourage school leavers to join Card Factory.” Asda offers both existing and new colleagues training programmes and recently extended the number of apprenticeship standards offered. Kate Fisher, Asda’s Senior Director for Talent & Capability: “Through apprenticeships, we’ve seen colleagues become more engaged and our workforce is becoming increasingly multi-skilled. This is vital to make sure we can continue to keep up with the changes we see in retail.” The time to act is now Levy funds have a shelf life of 24 months. The first levy payments were made in April 2017 so working on a first-in, first-out basis, funds have started expiring. So it’s use it now or lose it. Preeti Sumal, Partner & Development Manager, Learning and Development, John Lewis Partnership, encourages other retailers to capitalise upon the “phenomenal opportunity afforded by apprenticeships”.

We’re committed to being a great place to get on in work and life. Vocational learning is hugely valuable in a practical environment like retail. We’ve invested significantly in apprenticeships within the John Lewis Partnership. From 50 Partners on programmes in 2016, our apprenticeship programme has continued to develop, with over 900 apprentices enrolled last year. We’ve an ambition to continue this growth, in a way which is right for us and our Partners. “As part of our wider development offer, our apprenticeship programmes help us to build skills and capability, and support our Partners in achieving their potential, whether that’s stepping up into more senior roles or retraining into a completely new career.” Julie Brayson talks about the importance of focusing on the needs of the colleagues within Card Factory: “By looking around our business and focusing on what’s right for the learner, we’re able to drive out ways to utilise our levy. “We’re developing a learning culture within Card Factory which we didn’t have two years ago. Colleagues can access develop- ment opportunities which they’d never had before.” Continuing confidence in apprenticeships The winter edition of the Retailer saw Helen Dickinson, CEO of the BRC, call for government action on the levy. Julie Brayson supports the need for more flexibility in the system: “There is need for change alongside the positives. We’re learning all the time, our programme next year won’t be the same as it is now. We’re evolving it based on what colleagues need.” The headline grabbing 20% off the job requirement is reported to enhance the apprentice experience, improve retention and highlight the availability of career progression opportunities. Preeti Sumal: “Giving someone the space to learn in a real world environment is a significant, but important, investment – whilst it has its challenges, we recognise its value in an operational environment like retail. This could see someone taking on new responsibilities or leading an activity which they’re not currently required to fulfil - important and productive activity, as well as great learning opportunities.” Julie Brayson: “The 20% off the job is a challenge to our lean business. We’ve focused on encouraging apprentices to take responsibility for things which need to happen within Card Factory but may not be on their JD. They get a wider perspective of the business. “One apprentice introduced an in-store initiative which increased average basket value. This has now been rolled out nationally.”

52 | spring 2019 | the retailer

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