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What are you doing to nurture the Next Generation?

Yesterday Drapers brought together HR directors from retailers Reiss, Matalan and JD Williams over breakfast to discuss the challenges they face as businesses in securing the right talent, and the findings were interesting.

The morning session was held at the Charlotte Street Hotel in London and designed to kick off our Next Generation programme for 2014, which is all about finding the stars of tomorrow.

One of the key themes that came through was that there has been a shift in the sorts of positions that entrants into the fashion industry are looking for. Whereas in the past graduates were largely interested in the more well-known and seemingly ‘glamorous’ roles of buying and design, leading to a shortfall in areas such as merchandising, the latter is now seeing a significant rise in interest, according to the retail HR directors in attendance.

In line with this JD Williams increased the number of merchandising roles in its business this year and began merchandising placements for the first time ever, while Matalan also plans to start taking on student merchandising placements next year, when it will also launch a five year talent programme with Manchester Metropolitan University to source he best candidates. And it’s not just about merchandising. JD Williams also has a quality assurance apprenticeship scheme. And the good news for graduates looking for placements is that of the 12 students JD Williams takes on annually, it eventually hires around 75% of them.

Another pressing issue was in regards to location, and the perception among many young people that working in fashion means living in London. Whereas in fact there are opportunities aplenty further afield, with many brands and garement manufacturers based in the Midlands and the borders of Scotland, to name just a few areas.

The roundtable breakfast shed some interesting light on the challenges facing retailers when trying to source and secure the best talent, and was illustrative of the measures they are going to to try and bring through new candidates through.

For more on careers make sure you read Drapers’ Next Generation supplement, which will be available to subscribers in print and online on January 11.

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