Name of Network: Retail Ireland Skillnet
Number of members: 451
Sector(s) covered: Retail
Year established: 1999
Please describe what your Skillnet Business Network does and how it came about?
Retail Ireland Skillnet design and deliver work-based education and training programmes that meet the ever-changing needs of the Irish retail sector. We work in collaboration with businesses across the sector to ensure future skills needs are addressed.
Established in 2000, the network was formed due to the high demand for the standardisation of training and professional development within the sector. We are proud to be one of the longest-running Skillnet Business Networks, and through our promoting body Ibec we have partnered with Skillnet Ireland on upskilling and training to support the retail sector for over 23 years.
Can you outline one important way your Network impacts positively on your sector?
Retail Ireland Skillnet, in collaboration with participating companies, Retail Ireland, and The Retail Forum (an initiative of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment – DETE) are highlighting and advancing retail career pathways. Two decades ago, there was no structured training available for people to acquire the skills they needed to progress within the sector. Now, retail employees can avail of a vast array of training and education programmes.
These programmes range from short courses to QQI-accredited programmes all the way through to Master’s level degrees. The diverse programme offering is aimed at cultivating, developing and aligning the skills, talent and innovation that exists in the retail sector in a way that embraces new opportunities and new ways of working. This prepares retail professionals for long-term, sustainable careers in the industry.
What has been the most transformative initiative in your sector in the last year?
Retail Ireland Skillnet is constantly working on developing and improving retail career pathways. This ranges from the development of the Level 6 Apprenticeship in Retail Supervision to the recent redevelopment of the Level 7/8 Degree in Retail Management Practice in collaboration with Atlantic Technological University (ATU). The degree programme was successfully revalidated in 2022 and now incorporates talent solutions that address the latest challenges and opportunities that were identified by participating companies.
This continues to be a popular, high-quality, affordable, flexible, and retail-specific work-based learning programme that has a significant impact in the workplace. It leads to improved performance, enhances competitiveness and equips employees with the knowledge, skills and competencies required to work in an increasingly complex work environment.
What new trends do you see emerging within your industry?
As technology in retail continues to change and develop, the human skills needed to embrace these changes are perhaps more important than ever.
Social skills, communication, time management, problem-solving, emotional intelligence, adaptability and resilience make up the basic skillset that every retail worker should possess. However, these uniquely human skills are often overlooked. There is no doubt that technology is now an ever-increasing part of everyday retail sector life. However, what may set retailers apart is their ability to add to this – to enhance the use of the readily available technology through a retail workforce that is both skilled and competent to deliver on it.
The Retail Technologies and Future Skills Report published in 2022, supports this viewpoint, highlighting that soon retail staff will focus more on human skills and tasks machines can’t master such as leadership, applying expertise, and connecting with others.
How is your Network using technology to facilitate learning and development programmes?
Retail Ireland Skillnet training programmes embrace learning through a mix of live, virtual, interactive, webinars and self-paced eLearning. These are all developed or delivered by specialised subject matter experts who provide industry insights that spark innovation and inspire. We are planning on using Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a delivery method in some programmes in the future. This will allow for rapid updates in the ever-changing retail sector and allow upskilling of employees at a time, place and pace that suits the time-poor retail industry.
What skills do you think are most important for a small business owner/manager?
People Management – Having the right people with the right skills, in the right roles at the right time. Managing the recruitment, retention, leadership, and motivation of employees is crucial.
Technology – Businesses of the future will only survive and thrive if they have a workforce with the skills to exploit digitisation, new technologies and innovations impacting the sector.
Financial Management – Businesses need to be able to make informed financial decisions to sustain and develop strategies to improve their business.
Adaptability – Many sectors such as the retail sector are constantly evolving, so being adaptable to changing market trends, consumer preferences, and technology is essential to stay competitive.
Do you have any advice for a business that is considering joining a Skillnet Business Network?
Come with a vision of what you want for your business. Approach the engagement with a collaborative mindset and your Skillnet Business Network will be able to guide you on the path with the tools to go forward and achieve your business goals.
For retail businesses considering joining Retail Ireland Skillnet – our aim is to give people in the industry the skills and expertise, they need to enjoy long and rewarding careers and to give retailers access to the talent they need to survive and thrive in an increasingly competitive environment. Programmes are available to upskill existing staff and train in new people in all aspects of modern retailing. Importantly, we develop bespoke courses to meet the unique needs of individual retailers. And much of that training is available at no cost or very low cost to retail businesses thanks to our partnership with Skillnet Ireland.
Learn more about Retail Ireland Skillnet
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