Service Skills Australia has set up the Online Retailing project, convening forums of retail industry representatives in Sydney and Melbourne to establish a plan of action for dealing with the shortage of online retailing skills in Australia.
“We are really pleased to work with the country’s retailers to find solutions to this problem which many in the industry consider to be a major barrier to the sector’s growth,” Service Skills Australia’s CEO, Yasmin King, said.
The skills gap in online and new retail was identified as part of Leaders Summit 2014 held on the Gold Coast in September, which was jointly convened by the National Online Retailers Association (NORA) and the Australian Retailers Association (ARA).
A number of summit attendees agreed to be part of the Online Retailing project’s Special Reference Group (SRG) to advise on the development of nationally accredited qualifications that will assist in growing the Australian retail talent pool.
“There is a shortage of applicants with previous online retail experience and we are being forced to hire employees based on attitude or retail skills, which don’t always mesh into an online role without extensive training inhouse,” said Lauren Browne from Motto Fashions, one of the SRG members.
The Co-Op CEO, Peter Knock, another SRG member, said the organisation was very happy to be assisting to scope the skills and training needs that will help shape Australia’s online retailing future.
“We deal with digital natives every day and their expectations of us as multi-channel retailers is to be as good as anyone else in the world. We believe the skill gaps being identified through this project will contribute to a greater understanding of the ways training can be delivered to ensure we meet their expectations,” he said.
Other members of the SRG include Jeans West, Myer, Just Group, Sussan Group, James and Co, Woolworths, Birdsnest, Stylerunner, Groupon, Iceonline, Afterpay, Yorkshire Bridge, the ARA, and NORA.org.au.
Paul Greenberg, executive chairman of NORA, said there is variety of skills needs in online retail that vary greatly from business to business, therefore the focus needs to be on making the framework readily adapted to keep pace with constant change and development.
Service Skills Australia set up the Merchandise Buying and Planning project, a similar project dedicated to addressing the shortage of skilled merchandisers in Australia.
Both projects will run a pilot due to commence in early in 2015 to engage retailers and their employees in training prior to official endorsement of the training products, to ensure they are truly responsive to industry needs.
The retail industry is the largest private employer in Australia, employing 10.7 per cent of the total workforce as at August 2014.
The industry is projected to record the third largest employment growth of all industries in Australia over the five years to November 2018.