THE Wirral peninsula has lots of excellent shopping centres and retailers, both large and small, can be found within walking distance of most households.
This therefore provides many opportunities for careers and employment across the retail sector.
From retail assistant to branch and regional manager roles, or even self employment, there are many different careers to choose from.
Retailers are facing ever increasing competition and the need to provide outstanding customer service to customers is now essential to company survival.
Many retails have recognised the need to invest in the skills of their employees to help them maintain, or grow their market share.
As a member of the National Skills Academy for Retail, and supported by Wirral Metropolitan College, the Wirral Retail Skills Shop is part of the UK's largest ever network of retail skills shops.
The Wirral Retail Skills Shop provides retail training and development for both individuals and retailers.
From apprenticeships in optical retail and retail skills management, to training and development in management and team leading, the Wirral Retail Skills Shop provides a wide range of support, dedicated to improving the prospects of local people and businesses.
WorldHost programmes can be used across a wide variety of industries, where the quality of frontline customer service is key to business success.
These certified programmes allow employees to gain valuable skills and techniques, to provide excellent customer service.
Local retailers taking advantage of the Wirral Retail Skills Shop include:
Frederick Howard Opticians
Optical apprenticeships are in demand and it’s all thanks to Frederick Howard and his three apprentices.
In 2011, Fred Howard approached Wirral Met College for support in finding an apprentice in business administration for his very busy optician practices.
At this time, a new framework had emerged in Optical Retail and Fred decided he wanted to trial this new qualification in partnership with Wirral Met. After an incredible response to the apprenticeship vacancy advertised on the National Apprenticeship Service website, Fred Howard decided to appoint not one but three apprentices.
Such was the success of these apprentices, Fred Howard spread the word to other opticians and, as a result, Wirral Met College now delivers apprenticeship programmes to 10 opticians across 18 Wirral practices.
Fred Howard now has four apprentices, three of whom have all completed the intermediate apprenticeship and have progressed onto the advanced apprenticeship and Fred Howard’s latest recruit, who has just embarked on their intermediate apprenticeship.
Tranmere Rovers Football Club
Christine Roberts, Shop/Ticket Office Manager at Tranmere Rovers Football Club, told them.
“Having an apprentice has given us the chance to work with Wirral Met College on getting the right person and the right training that we would not have had the opportunity to use before.
“We now have a great new member of staff with whom we see a bright future.
“Having an apprentice has enabled us to grow areas of our company, in way that we have not have been able to, and having the support of the college in additional training and developing skills has been priceless.”
Williamson Art Gallery
When Williamson Art Gallery decided to put two of their employees through the apprenticeship programme, their retail offer was quite small.
Pat Ramsden embarked on a Level Three Retail Management Apprenticeship and Lyndsay Mitchelson on a Level Two Retail Apprenticeship.
In addition to their training, they received excellent mentoring from their trainer, Traci Van Marle who has a wealth of retail experience.
After recently undergoing major refurbishment, the Williamson Art Gallery emerged with a retail shop.
In 2011, Aldi approached the National Skills Academy for Retail when they decided to trial apprenticeships.
After a very successful trial, it was decided to roll out the initiative across the company and in 2012, Wirral Retail Skills Shop was given three stores to recruit for.
After a very successful advertising campaign, Wirral Met College ran a number of information evenings and one-to-one sessions, before the final cohort of 18 progressed to the one week pre-apprenticeship programme.
Such was the quality of applicants, Aldi decided to take on four apprentices instead of the three they initially required.
These apprentices have now successfully completed the first year of their apprenticeships and are progressing in their second year programmes, with the aim to become deputy managers for Aldi after completing the three year training programme.
The college’s next five apprentices have already begun their Aldi journey.
Seabank Road Town Team
After Mary Portas was sent out to investigate the decline in the High Streets, the Portas Pilot was developed and Town Teams were invited to bid for £100,000 to improve their high streets.
The Seabank Road team put in their bid but, although this was unsuccessful, they did receive £10,000 to use for the benefit of local retailers and residents.
Wirral Council contacted Wirral Retail Skills Shop to see how they could support the team and their retail offer.
The Seabank Road team, led by Albert Ellis, has been very proactive and they soon realised that they would benefit from customer service training.
As a result, Wirral Retail Skills Shop are currently delivering WorldHost training to all of the Seabank Road businesses, and their hope is that they will gain recognised WorldHost destination status.
Further support came during Independence Day on July 4, when all independent retailers promoted their businesses.
The Wirral Retail Skills Shop worked with the Town Team to stage an event on July 4 2013 to showcase their High Street. It was a huge success, attended by the Deputy Mayor and his wife, as well as Sue Higginson, Principal of Wirral Met College.
Many of the local residents got involved and the local school staged a poster competition with some excellent ideas on why we should support our High Street.
The retailers stayed open until 7pm and the majority saw huge increases in sales.
This support will continue and hopefully, a similar model will be rolled out across other Town Teams in the very near future.
Wirral Met College has been working with Age UK for a couple of years with their retail apprentices, but one apprentice in particular stands out.
Jennifer Smythe came to the UK from Nigeria five years ago and up until she started her apprenticeship, she had never worked, having chosen to be a stay-at-home mum.
When Jennifer applied for the position, she never really believed she would get it as, in her own words, her retail experience was limited to her own shopping!
Clearly, the person interviewing her saw a promising talent, as her journey has been inspirational.
After a short period with Age UK, Jennifer was running a store alongside volunteers.
The store was like not your average charity shop but had a certain style to it, Jennifer’s style.
It was apparent that even without training, she had an eye for detail.
When eventually a manager’s job became available, Jennifer applied and was appointed to the position in spite of fierce competition from others with more experience.
Jennifer went on to complete her Intermediate apprenticeship and has now embarked on her Advanced Apprenticeship in management.
For further information, visit www.wirralretailskillsshop.co.uk, contact 0151 551 7593 / 7610, or email enquiries@wirralretailskillsshop.