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Why Retail Is a Great Industry to Earn and Learn In

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For those collecting their A-Level results, this is a significant week. For some it will be the confirmation of a place at university. For others it may mark the end of their school based education and the start of working life. For all it is the beginning of a new phase. Whatever that may be, my hope is that learning is a big part of it. I remember well that feeling of relief when the exams were over, but don't mistake that for the end of education. I've learnt something in every job I've done since I left school and, in a world where we are all likely to work for longer and where technology is driving the innovation cycle faster, that's going to be more important than ever for the people receiving their results. Whether you are going to university or into the job market I hope you'll set out to 'earn and learn' throughout a career that will be all the more rewarding if you do.

The retail industry is a good place to do that. It is often a first job for many school leavers and it's a fulfilling place to build a career, providing a lifetime of learning and opportunities. Retailers nurture talent at every level, across all types of qualifications and there are a wealth of different roles in the sector, from buying, merchandising and marketing, to coding and logistics. There are few better places to cut your teeth in a fast paced commercial environment and the learning opportunities are plentiful in everything from creativity to leadership.

It surprises nearly everyone that the average supermarket store manager can earn more per year than a solicitor. But it shouldn't. Store managers run multi-million pound businesses with huge teams. They build lifelong careers in the companies they work for and some go all the way to the boardroom. And there are many different routes to get there - several of today's retail CEOs started their working life on the shop floor.

Many businesses like John Lewis and Waitrose offer high-quality jobs, including apprenticeships, to school leavers, enabling young people to earn and learn, and providing a spring board to a successful career. Beyond retail, apprenticeships are available in over 170 industries, from advertising to engineering, professional services to TV and broadcasting. The government has given employers the freedom to shape apprenticeships, to ensure apprentices receive the best and most appropriate type of training for their line of work and employers are responding with more opportunities being created for young people.

Graduate opportunities are also hugely important to the retail industry with an increasing demand for the applied skills of those graduating with good degrees from our best universities. For example the UK is the most advanced e-commerce market in the world and there is a burgeoning demand for skilled software engineers, web developers and logisticians. But this isn't just an IT story. Technology is changing the way we all live and it is transforming jobs and the roles people perform. It has never been more important for retailers to deliver excellent and authentic customer service. So, in retail, we need the best people not just in IT and analytics, but especially those who want to learn to become the best communicators, people managers and commercial leaders in the UK.

Whether this week's results mean you are set on a path to university or to the world of work, retail is a great place for a career in earning and learning and I hope many of you will take it.

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