There is a gaping disconnect between the curriculums being designed for our emerging retail talent and what the new retailers actually need.
While the problems of large and established retailers capture the headlines, a new generation of online retailers is succeeding globally by innovating around technology and work practices.
These are the companies that are defining what it means to be a retailer in the 21st century in Australia, and their success is being recognised around the world.
Online retail, or what I increasingly refer to as the "new retail" (it so much more than online), is perfectly suited to Australia and should represent a golden era for Australian retail - the "clever country" in the Asian century. We are in an incredible position, with a technology-led retail era upon us, a strong consumer direct footprint and a deeply customer-centric, increasingly global model.
Take one example - Shoes of Prey. It was recently identified by the US Constellation Research group as an exemplar of contemporary smart business. But while its leadership is competitive, clever and agile, Shoes of Prey, like many of its peers, finds that getting staff with contemporary skills to match its business model is a real challenge.
That's because the views of the people charged with designing the national retail-training curriculum for our training colleges are anchored in an idea of retail that belongs back in the 1970s.
TRAINING LAGS BEHIND TODAY'S NEEDS
Simply put, there is a gaping disconnect between the curriculums being designed for our emerging retail talent, and what the new retailers actually need. You can drive a bus through this great divide.
Without wishing to disrespect the efforts of Service Skills Australia, nor the well-intentioned contribution of its committee, a recent meeting of its Wholesale, Retail and Personal Services Industry Advisory Committee - funded by the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science Research and Tertiary Education - was emblematic of the problem.
Consider that the "brains trust" contributing to the development of new retail curriculums includes representatives from the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Association, Rookwood General Cemetery, Advanced Association of Beauty Therapists, Australian Funeral Directors' Association, Australian Retailers Association, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and the Australian Hairdressing Council. These organisations represent ably, and with vigour, their constituents, but there is very little, with respect, that they can actively contribute to the new retail curriculums.
The new retail environment requires some dynamic and exciting skill sets, highly suited to Australia's youthful talent. Those include software development, data mining and analytics, graphic and digital design, digital photography and imaging, network engineering, mobile applications, search engine optimisation, digital marketing and more.
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