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Retailers up apprenticeships in face of levy

Retailers plan to increase the number of apprenticeships they offer over the next two years, a survey by the British Retail Consortium has found.

A survey, conducted by BRC in February, conducted to coincide with National Apprenticeship Week this week (4 to 8 March), found that nearly all – 94% – of respondents, which employ 642,000 retail workers, equivalent to more than one-fifth of the retail workforce in the UK, planned to increase their intake of apprentices.

Apprenticeship programmes are completed largely by existing, while 33% are undertaken by new starters.

Nearly eight in 10 retailers reported that apprenticeships support them in creating an in-house talent pool, and 50% found that it supported staff retention.

Half of retailers reported it helped them to meet the critical skills gap.

Nevertheless, the apprenticeship scheme still faces difficulties since the introduction of the apprenticeship levy, which came into effect on 6 April 2017. Retail apprenticeships, offered across categories including digital marketing, engineering, supply chain, finance and HR are down on the years before to the levy, and 89% of retailers cite inflexible funding rules limiting the scheme’s growth.

The survey found that 61% of retailers are also concerned by the lack of consistency in the scheme across the UK, and 44% feel there is a lack of quality trading providers.

Fionnuala Horrocks-Burns, employment and skills policy adviser at the British Retail Consortium, said: The commitment from retailers to continue investing in apprenticeships is a clear signal of support for the recent reforms. But with any new system, imperfections remain. The government must work with the industry to provide greater funding flexibility to ensure the momentum on apprenticeships is not lost.”

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