Bricks and clicks

Shifts in consumer behaviour are disrupting the retail landscape and giving rise to new digital platforms and technologies that augment the shopping experience.

As smartphones become ubiquitous and social networks grow in sophistication, consumers are finding new ways to shop. They’re not just purchasing in store with brick-and-mortar retailers, but wherever and whenever they find inspiration. Shopping via a smartphone has reached 41% of internet users in the UK, according to figures from Mintel, and those that do venture into stores are finding their experiences increasingly interactive and immersive.

Sector at a glance

  • 9% of UK businesses are retailers
  • £1,275 is invested by retailers in training per employee
  • 4 in 10 visits to e-retail websites are made via mobiles and tablets


Apprenticeships – because they’re worth it

Commentary by Kirstie Donnelly MBE, Managing Director, City & Guilds UK

Small and medium-sized businesses are the lifeblood of the UK economy and have made a huge contribution to its continued growth. Roughly five million SMEs employ more than 15 million people across the UK, and that number grows every year.

So how do we ensure that our vitally important SMEs continue to thrive? The answer is people. Whether you’re a high-street hairdresser or an international tech firm, you share a common need to ensure that you have a constant flow of talented people ready and able to fill the roles your flourishing business creates.

As all the political parties have recognised, apprenticeships will play a significant part in ensuring that we’re able to meet the ever-increasing demands of businesses across the country. And why wouldn’t they? An apprentice is a huge asset, as he or she can be moulded to meet the needs of your business, bringing enthusiasm, fresh ideas and new skills to boot. And the numbers stack up, too. It’s estimated that an apprentice is worth about £214 per week to a business through reduced costs, improved quality of product and service, and better profit margins.

“An apprentice is a huge asset, as he or she can be moulded to meet the needs of your business, bringing enthusiasm, fresh ideas and new skills to boot”

Sadly, though, apprenticeships have received a bad rap in recent years. A lot of meddling from successive governments has left them with an undeserved reputation as a poor alternative to university. An overly bureaucratic system has also made it extremely difficult for some small businesses to participate.

But there are changes afoot. The UK Government is working on plans to give employers much more say over the workings of the apprenticeship system. As part of this reform, it has announced its intention to channel funding via employers from 2017. At City & Guilds, we strongly support the principle of putting ‘the power of the purse’ into the hands of the employer, but, as always, the devil is in the detail.

Under the new system, employers will be expected to contribute to what the government invests, and the burden of administration for training and funding will now be placed on the business rather than the training providers. While it is thought that the businesses will ultimately see more back from the government than they put in, we at City & Guilds fear these changes could discourage even more SMEs from participating.

  • £214 – the estimated value of an apprentice per week to a business

Our hope is that businesses recognise the huge advantages an apprentice could bring and that the changes are seized as an opportunity to take control of the apprenticeship system. We know there is work to be done by everyone to get to this point. We will certainly be playing our part by communicating what the changes mean as they happen and lobbying government to ensure businesses get what they need. We are already carrying out research into best practice, advising government and supporting learning establishments and employers to ensure that apprenticeships are fit for purpose and provide the high-quality workforces our industries demand.

My dream is to see a new apprenticeship system that enables more and more SMEs to flourish and gives our young people access to the fantastic careers they deserve. Because at the end of the day, you’re worth it. And so are they.

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