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Industry standards and wider digital education needed to build a retail workforce for the future: IMRG

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Etailers’ association the IMRG has called for new industry standards on training both for today’s digital professionals and those of the future in order to make sure the UK is well supplied with the expertise that it needs to keep its leading position in online and multichannel retail.

The organisation’s Senate has issued a report highlighting skills shortages within the digital commerce industry. It says that “recruitment and retention of talent in the industry is one of the key topics retailers have been raising with us recently.”

The IMRG predicts that digital skills will become ever more necessary. And while it says it’s likely that the younger generation will grow up with digital expertise, at the moment there’s a skills gap. “The digital nature of society means that the internet will continue to become more embedded in our everyday lives; it is difficult to think of an industry that will not require a far more technically-proficient workforce over time to deal with this evolution,” said the IMRG.

The IMRG Senate’s Mind the Gap? skills report points to three key areas that are an issue for retail employers: finding the right people, developing the skills of existing staff, and holding on to talent in a very competitive market. And it says that it’s a challenge to find candidates who satisfy three often-conflicting criteria of technical competence, business and retail expertise and the ability to work across different departments.

The skills gap is across the board, it says, but areas with particular shortages include digital merchandising, data analysis and in integrating traditional, coding and digital marketing channels. All of these roles are particularly critical since they are point of the crucial customer engagement side of the business. There are only “a very small number of people who have expertise and experience in developing areas such as mobile marketing and in-store digital engagement” and as different areas of digital come closer together, staff will need to have better understanding across different areas of the business.

In order to address the issue the IMRG report suggests industry standards must be developed for training that upskills existing staff in vocational qualifications. It suggests that the recruitment industry should work with IMRG to identify the industry’s requirements and gain “a better understanding of the opportunities”. Finally, it also suggests that the Government needs to put a longer-term focus on training in schools and higher education, something it says is already reflected in the recent changes to the national curriculum. The report says: “This is a global market for talent and the UK will lose its competitive edge if it cannot train the experts of the future.”

The report was put together based on feedback from the last IMRG Senate meeting in May, which was attended by retailers and organisations including Asos, Debenhams, Deckers, Brora , IMRG and Shop Direct Group.

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