Published on 09/01/2014

intu Properties plc has joined forces with a new North East based education consultancy to tackle the predicted shortfall in core skills in the region’s future workforce.
World Class Retail Gold is building on the success of the nationally acclaimed extended schools’ work experience programme Retail Gold, delivered by Newcastle Education Business Partnership in association with intu Properties, owners of intu Eldon Square and intu Metrocentre, since 2005.
From 2005 – 2013, over 300 students from schools in the North East benefited from retail work placements, as part of their BTEC studies for business and work skills, where they had access to the expertise of retail professionals and hands-on experience of the world of work at both intu Metrocentre and intu Eldon Square.
From October 2013, regional management consultancy Employers in Education has developed a new initiative working with intu, World Class Retail Gold, ensuring excellence in Customer Service Training offered to work experience students.
During the academic year 2013/14, students from four Newcastle Schools, Sacred Heart School, Gosforth Academy, Excelsior Academy and All Saints CE College, as well as Blaydon’s St Thomas More Catholic School, are attending weekly work placements at John Lewis and Debenhams at intu Eldon Square, as well as House of Fraser, WH Smith and M&S at intu Metrocentre. In both shopping centres, students have also been placed within the intu Customer Services Teams, and are enjoying exactly the same level of World Class Training as all intu staff receive throughout the UK.
Tracy Allison, Management Consultant, Employers in Education, said:
“World Class Retail Gold is actually responding directly to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Report 'Better skills, better jobs, better lives' that shows, if managed well, the workplace can be an excellent environment for young people to develop the skills they need – and that employers want – as part of the transition to the world of work.Compared to curricula designed entirely by educators and taught exclusively in schools, learning in the workplace allows young people to develop ‘hard’ skills on modern equipment, and ‘soft’ skills, such as teamwork, communication and negotiation, through real-world experience. Building workplace experience into educational programmes also provides an important channel of feedback from the labour market to education providers about what skills are in demand. These benefits of workplace learning to promote employability apply whether young people are pursuing a vocational/professional pathway or following a more general/academic route.”
Alexander Nicoll, Director of Corporate Responsibility, intu Properties, added:
“intu Eldon Square and intu Metrocentre are compelling retail and leisure destinations and much of the ‘experience’ for customers arises from the quality of service received. We know that a high percentage of entrants into retail are under 25 and that it is increasingly difficult for young people to start their working life without qualifications and work experience. intu’s work with Retail Gold continues to support young people from all over the region and we are delighted to be able to build on this success with the launch of  World Class Retail Gold, which sees participants benefiting directly from the World Class Service  training provided to all  intu employees. This enhanced programme sees intu once again at the forefront of engagement with communities in the North East to promote skills, training and pathways to real and rewarding jobs."
Andrew Hodgson, North East LEP board member with responsibility for skills development, commented:
 “The single most important thing that will add value to the region or to an individual is increasing skill levels. We are working closely with local employers to create and strengthen a workforce with skills clearly linked to the North East economy and its key sectors. Retail is an important regional sector, and we welcome Employers in Education and intu’s initiative in launching World Class Retail Gold, and highlighting the importance of customer service to young people. Programmes such as this help to drive regional growth by developing the capabilities of future skilled employees, trained and working in the North East."
Phil Steele, General Manger of intu Eldon Square, said:
“This long term partnership between intu retailers and schools has now been further refined and will certainly enhance the Retail Gold project, going forward.We are delighted to be working with Tracy Allison from Employers in Education who is leading this project to deliver business and retail education in our local schools. Schools report that participation in extended work experience raises pupils’ aspirations and self-confidence, demonstrating the relevance of what is being taught in school and therefore encourages and improves school attendance. These important skills are of course not only relevant in the world of retail, but transferable to any area of work.”
Gavin Prior, General Manager of intu Metrocentre, commented:
“intu retailers have positively embraced the Retail Gold programme, and enjoyed seeing young people develop during their time in store. Evidence shows that young people, and their parents, value, and want more educational experiences that engage employers because their involvement brings a new perspective to learning, creating relevance for pupils through real life connections.”

30th January 2013
Retail Gold students will come together at the Tyneside Cinema to participate in fast moving energetic World Class Customer Service training. The objectives of the session are to understand how important delivering a constantly exceptional service is and to demonstrate how to bring World Class Service to life.

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