Retail is changing rapidly. Digitalisation and e-commerce pave the way for reskilling and upskilling for the sector’s workforce. These developments push companies to understand better the importance of supporting their employees in improving their competences.
VR is one of the largest workers’ unions in Iceland, with over 35 000 members; about 14 000 of these work in retail. Realising the need for upskilling its members in line with technological developments, VR has undertaken various initiatives to address the needs identified.
The first step was to map retail occupations and document essential competences in the sector. This helped to identify education needs.
The next step was development of two study programmes: one for retail managers at EQF 6 (Diploma in business and retail) is already completed, its content as a study program taught by Reykjavík and Bifröst Universities. The second, at upper secondary level (EQF 4), is expected to start as of the academic year 2019-20.
Important lessons were learned from setting up the Diploma in business and retail. The fact that half of the applicants failed to fulfil admission requirements clearly demonstrated the need for updated VET programmes for retail at EQF level 4. Programmes such as this, within the formal education system, would allow prospective applicants for the diploma to build on necessary competences acquired at upper secondary level and progress to higher levels of their academic and working life successfully.
Based on experiences gained in this endeavour, VR is currently trying to involve stakeholders to ensure the right future set of competences for its members. Collaboration with stakeholders is essential to a successful future for the retail sector.