Smaller retailers have neither time nor cash to train staff

27 July, 2007

Report says managers miss out on holiday because they lack decent cover

Nigel Huddleston

Nearly a third of all small retail businesses can't afford to train their staff, according to a new report from the Learning & Skills Council.

But the LSC wants to change that through its Train to Gain initiative, which offers employers access to free "skills ­brokers" to advise them how to improve their


The report suggested that 19 per cent of smaller retailers didn't have the time to look for suitable training options, and 24 per cent said that, in their experience, their own employees didn't have the right skills for the job.

Yet almost three quarters thought it was essential for business success that their staff did have the right skills.

The survey also found that 40 per cent of small retail business managers were failing to use their full holiday allowance, of which a third was due to a lack of skilled staff to cover their position.

Jaine Clarke, national director of skills for employers at the LSC, said Train to Gain was "designed to drive up the nation's skills by tackling historic barriers to learning, such as cost and time".

The LSC said

businesses with fewer than

50 employees

were entitled

to free

Level 2 training, the equivalent to five good GCSEs.

David Lammy, minister for skills in the Department for Innovation, Universities & Skills, said: "We need to dramaticallly raise awareness and aspirations on skills.

We need employers to see the value of and the need to invest in skills at all levels, and we need individuals to pay more attention to and take action to address their skills needs."

John Mitchell, owner of award-winning Mitchells Wine Merchants, of Sheffield, said he had stopped putting staff through Wine & Spirit Education Trust courses a decade ago because of costs and travelling distance to learning centres.

He said: "The availability in Yorkshire is quite poor. Part of

the course is tasting, and driving over to Harrogate or York once a week

is a no-go.


have students who are really good members of staff and they have been here for three years, so they're not short-term

- but they're already learning to be ­doctors or solicitors and you can't really ask them to do another course on top. It's another cost."

Mitchell said getting skilled retail staff was generally hard. "We used to advertise and get hundreds of applications, but now you get nothing," he said.

"They're all too busy on the tills down at Tesco."

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