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We must invest in our future

An extract from House of Fraser chief executive John King’s speech to launch Skillsmart Retail’s Diploma in Retail Business

Launch of Skillsmart Retail's Diploma in Retail Business

Amid all the doom and gloom in the press, there are still nearly three million people working in retail and investing in skills remains vital. It is key to sustaining businesses in the coming months and key to prospering as we look past this recession and prepare for the upturn. One of the ways House of Fraser is doing this is by turning to our future staff - the young people currently in school.

The Diploma in Retail Business is one of 17 new sector-specific diplomas for 14-19 year olds in England that will sit alongside GCSEs, A-levels and apprenticeships. This isn’t just another vocational qualification - it will be taught at three levels, the highest of which will be the equivalent to three-and-a-half A-levels and will be accepted by most universities in the UK.

Students will take part in a mix of classroom learning from maths, English and ICT to learning about the retail industry from supply to source to sale. They will also take part in work experience placements in stores and write projects that will help them in their future retail career.

There has been, and continues to be, major involvement from the retail sector, which is one of the key things that makes this diploma stand out from those that have gone before it. House of Fraser is proud to be at the forefront of this work. The first trials of the diploma start in September 2010 and we are working with Skillsmart Retail to embed it in our HR, training and operational practises to make sure that our stores are there to help in its delivery from the moment it begins.

I believe in the diploma as it will give a whole generation of students greater opportunities that have previously been unavailable to them. I worked my way up the ladder from the sales floor. The training that the diploma will provide will make the students ‘business ready’. It will equip them with the essential knowledge of the retail business that will make them more effective much sooner than if they just join retail ‘cold’.

This diploma will give us quality recruits. People who come ready trained with the team-working, communication and people skills that they need to make our business work. I also believe we will find our staff and leaders of the future through the diploma.

I truly believe that this is the qualification retail has been waiting for and I urge you all to get involved. Contact the team at Skillsmart Retail to find out how you can bring it alive - whether it’s teacher placements, mentoring, work experience, opening stores up for visits or offering case studies. If you get behind it, this could be the investment in the future that benefits not only the industry but the future lives of thousands of young people.

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