The Government must do more to engage with retail and other industries that risk being “left behind” by its industrial strategy, MPs have recommended.
The House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee said in a report published today that the Government has so far focused on hi-tech business sectors “but has not done enough to engage industries such as retail and hospitality… and help boost productivity in these sectors”.
Core to the industrial strategy was the creation of ‘sector deals’ to boost productivity growth, but the report found some industries that have sought them have seen little interest.
Retailers had hoped to fund the training up to one million workers in exchange for flexibility in how the Apprenticeship Levy is administered.
The MPs’ report stated: “Proposals for a retail sector deal focused on digital skills have received the support of Usdaw, the major shopworkers’ trade union, reflecting the wide recognition of the changing nature of the sector.
“However, despite the potential productivity gains and the enthusiastic support from industry and workers, we heard that progress on the deal had stopped as the Government, and more specifically the Department for Education, were unwilling to discuss the sector’s proposals for apprenticeships.
“Work with the Government has continued, but the new Retail Sector Council has come up against the same barriers, with the Department for Education not attending meetings, even when focused on skills.”
The committee recommended that the Government deliver on its promise to work “closely” with the retail industry, publish an action plan for how it would engage with low productivity sectors, and ensure that Government departments play their part in delivering.
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee chair Rachel Reeves MP said: “The Government’s industrial strategy isn’t doing enough for the everyday economy, in sectors such as retail and hospitality where millions of Brits are employed.
“The Government’s open door offer to industry isn’t being delivered upon in these neglected sectors and the Government needs to be much clearer about the criteria for sector deals and engage more actively and decisively to make these happen.”
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “We welcome the call by the committee for Government to take positive action to support the reinvention of the industry. If Government fails to act, the consequences for communities across the country may be stark.”