BY THE BRC Learning Team

BRC Learning held the first in a serious of roundtable events, entitled Making Apprenticeships Work for Retailers last month.  Hosted by our provider partner, Leeds Beckett University, we welcomed colleagues from Asda, Carpetright, Matalan, Boots, Aldi, Mamas and Papas, Superdrug and Freemans Grattan Holdings.

Here are just some of the key points that came out of the event:

Apprenticeships must be aligned to the business priorities and talent strategy
It’s vital to think through how your apprenticeships align with your business priorities and your overall talent strategy before you worry about spending the levy.  That includes picking employees that are right for the programme and will be able to successfully finish the apprenticeship, rather than using a blanket approach driven by the levy. The top benefits that came out of the discussions, which were also echoed by the recent BRC Apprenticeship Survey, are about upskilling, retention, and developing future skills.  However, it’s a balancing act with Ofsted insisting that apprenticeships have to be relevant to the current role, whilst retailers are trying to equip people with the skills needed for the future.

Buy in must be sought from across the Business
It’s essential that you gain buy-in from across the whole organisation from the board to the line managers.  This is particularly important when it comes to managing the 20% off-the-job training, which continues to be a ‘hot topic’ among many retailers.  The government has recently published some guidance, which seeks to address many of the myths around the 20% requirement, for example this does not need to be taken on one day, it could be flexibly spread over the week.  Feedback from one retailer was that training needed for some current roles would also be included in the Apprenticeship programme.  So, it’s important to see the bigger picture and sell the benefits to the entire business.

The development of new standards is too slow
The group felt that new standards were needed to meet their business priorities, including improving current frameworks to be reflective of workplace trends e.g. digital, yet the process of developing new standards could be very slow. Also when new standards are confirmed, there is the need for more quality EPA (End Point Assessment) organisations. 

The industry needs to sell the benefits of apprenticeships in retail
As an industry it’s clear we need to do more to sell the benefits of apprenticeships both to help attract and retain talented employees and build the champions and advocates within the retailers which are essential to making apprenticeships work.

Feedback on the roundtable event was very positive from all participants, who appreciated the opportunity to discuss their successes and challenges, whilst networking and building relationships with other colleagues in the industry.

Our next apprenticeship roundtable will be held on 26 September at our BRC London Bridge office.  To register your interest email

Working together with our hand-picked partners, BRC Learning offers high quality leadership and management apprenticeship tailored specifically for the retail industry.   For more information visit or contact us on 020 7854 8921 or