Employer-led training initiative has real ambition

There’s a growing sense of Ambition in Leeds city centre and it’s down to an innovative, employer-led training initiative working to meet the specific needs of its retail and hospitality sectors.

Ambition:Leeds is a joint project involving the city council, the Business Improvement District (BID) and commercial property group Landsec.

It was created in direct response to the growing demand from businesses looking for skilled recruits to join their workforces. Ambition has been designed to support collaboration between those businesses and education providers.

The £500,000 academy is looking to address the complex and changing skills of retail and hospitality in a landscape which sees the high street under increasing pressure from the online world.

Dianne Wainwright, Ambition:Leeds manager at LeedsBID, believes its success is vital to deliver a vibrant future for the city centre. Leeds is ranked as the third highest destination for retail spending outside London and it sits just outside the European top 20.

She said: “Businesses are driving the shape of this, to ensure they get what they want and need.

“We are looking at developing the rounded person – it is about attitude, shop floor and customer service skills – the general behaviours that you’d expect somebody to display in the working environment.

“And it is about responding to how the demand for skills is changing in the context of the way retail is changing. We’re trying to future-proof the economic vibrancy of the city.”

She added: “It is all about listening to business and getting employers involved in the design of that training, so we are confident it is absolutely what employers want.”

To that end the project has an employer board made up of not just the big high street names but also the independents that make up the mix in Leeds.

Wainwright said: “We believe what we are doing here could be replicated across the UK and in other sectors. Hopefully it won’t stop here.”

Bespoke training is being delivered some of the region’s top education providers including Leeds City College, Leeds Beckett and The Source Skills Academy.

Supporting existing staff to improve and expand their knowledge and skills, Ambition aims to improve service standards and business performance.

Project leaders say it is an approach will also help to attract and retain new talent in the sectors.

Speaking when the project was announced, Cllr Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council’s executive member for learning, skills and employment, said: “The council has invested to ensure that the city centre continues to be a great place to live, work and visit with great retail and dining experiences.

“Skilled staff are critical to this and we want to support employers to invest in their workforce skills to improve service standards and business performance to enable them to continue to adapt and grow in a changing economy.”