Currys chief people, communications and sustainability officer Paula Coughlan has called on the next government to overhaul the apprenticeship levy to offer more opportunities and skills training.

Paula Coughlan, Currys

Currys’ Paula Coughlan: “We need to go further and faster to give people the skills they need to thrive”

In a blog post written by Coughlan for the British Retail Consortium, she emphasised how important it is for young people to build skills to grow and develop their careers as well as advance financially.

In the post, Coughlan wrote: “I want to add my voice to those already calling for the next government to go back to the drawing board on the apprenticeship levy because, in all honesty, it’s not working right now at all.

“I say that because half of retail’s £250m annual contribution to the levy is unused. And that’s at a time when the world around us is changing faster than ever before. 

“Simply put, we need to go further and faster to give people the skills they need to thrive. As retail employs nearly 20% of the UK’s workforce, upskilling people and providing more apprenticeship opportunities is critical.”

She calls on the government to change the current levy into a “broader skills levy” so businesses can offer more apprenticeships and invest in a wider range of courses.

Coughlan adds that Currys is currently doing a lot in terms of training facilities and programmes, but that the retailer is “constrained” by the number of apprenticeships it can with the current “inflexibility” of the levy.

Currys joins other retailers such as AO, Bensons for Beds and Theo Paphitis, the boss of Ryman, Robert Dyas and Boux Avenue, who are calling on the government to fix the levy.

Coughlan added: “Now, more than ever, we need to be building ‘skills for life’ – skills that are crucial for embracing new technology, developing high-performance teams, creating strong cultures and, of course, delivering great customer experiences. 

“By doing so, we’re not just harnessing the potential of our own colleagues but unleashing the power of businesses up and down the land to make a real difference to our economy and to the social mobility of millions.”