The Apprentice

The UK government have announced that from 6th April 2017, all employers operating in the UK, with a pay bill over £3million each year are required to invest in apprenticeships. What affect will this have on employers? And, what opportunities in the retail and shopping centre industry will the next generation of graduates have available?

There is already an apprenticeship scheme in place in the form of ‘retail path’. This scheme was set up by REVO (BCSC Educational Trust) and the National Skills Academy to help deliver apprenticeship programmes to UK shopping centres and encourage young people to consider a career in retail. This scheme, alongside the governments’ new levy, will offer opportunities and encourage more individuals to enter the shopping centre/retail market.

It has recently been declared that Paula Nickolds has become the first female managing director at John Lewis. Paula joined the retail group 22 years ago as a graduate trainee – very timely news with the new levy coming into place. Paula’s promotion has received a remarkable amount of publicity and will hopefully be a real inspiration to graduates.

Foundation Recruitment are a proud sponsor of the ICSC’s Next Generation programme, a platform for up and coming individuals in the shopping centre sector who are key players and strong prospects for future leaders in the industry. Both this and ‘retail path’ are great initiatives to encourage career progression in the industry.

The initial news of the apprenticeship levy, understandably, may be a seen as a challenge for centres, however, there are numerous benefits it can bring:

  • Young talent is often energetic and easily moulded and trained. They may not have experience, but that means they don’t have bad habits and are ready to absorb the organisation’s expectations and procedures
  • Creating opportunities and careers is an excellent way to contribute to the organisations CSR, in turn, this will develop a positive brand image which is becoming increasingly important as the industry competition rises
  • An obvious benefit of young talent is they are often affordable, this means schemes may be able to grow their team in areas the budget previously restricted
  • Often, young graduates, have strong basic business skills – university helps graduates gain talents such as; writing, problem solving, communication, teamwork, time management, etc. all of which are transferable to business roles. In addition, retail week has released an opinion report in relation to the new levy and predicts we may start to see skills being developed that are more in line with the hospitality sector not just technology-driven. This will equate to higher skilled staff, increased productivity and improved customer experience – a big challenge the industry is facing
  • Offering apprenticeships to a younger generation is a great way to gain millennial knowledge. Engaging with millennials has been an ongoing challenge for shopping centres and retailers, having them onsite to share ideas and knowledge will be a great way to implement new strategies directly targeted at this age bracket
  • Having a strategy that offers more opportunities to new entrants and develops senior talent, will ultimately create loyalty to the scheme and brand, increasing employee retention

A benefit for the apprentice is the pool of new opportunities that will become available, finding a career is becoming increasingly difficult so this will be an excellent advantage for them.  As a fashion marketing graduate myself, I have witnessed first hand the competitiveness of the fashion industry and I really believe, shopping centre and retail apprenticeships will be highly sought after by these graduates – working in shopping centre management is a great opportunity to get experience in a highly related industry. Additionally, this will benefit centres as the fashion graduates will have a good understanding of current and upcoming trends; be able to assist with live fashion shows; work with tenants to create strategies and advise what brands should be brought into the centre – graduates such as these could have young knowledge that is invaluable to centres.

I’m looking forward to seeing the positive impact the new levy will have on the shopping centre management structure.

Kat Whitehead, Marketing Executive, Foundation Recruitment

Foundation Recruitment staff portraits

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