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UK Fashion Industry to Increase Digitally-Driven Workforce

The British fashion industry is adding more technical jobs to accommodate the rise of digital shopping channels.

According to a recent Fashion Retail Academy report, “Fast Forwarding Fashion: Skills for the Future,” the U.K. fashion industry will generate 60,000 new analytical and technical roles in the next five years in order to keep up with the digital revolution transforming the retail industry.

Most of these new positions will be in head offices, where there is a high demand for more digitally-savvy staff members. Analytical roles, digital roles and technical roles, in addition to buying, merchandising and supply chain management jobs, will be leading recruitment efforts from now until 2021.

Although these skilled head office jobs are in high demand, 57 percent of U.K. retailers are having problems filling these positions, furthering the fact that there is a major skills gap in the U.K. fashion industry.

“Many retailers have already recognized current skills gaps within their organization, with three-quarters of retailers providing in-house training for experienced staff and management to plug these gaps,” said Michael Jary, report co-author and partner at OC&C Strategy Consultants. “However, all of the retailers we spoke with believe that the skills required in these areas would be entirely new in five years’ time, and supporting rigorous and evolving training programs will be a challenge for retailers.”

U.K. retailers also reported which digital trends would change their future operations. Eighty-seven percent of U.K. retailers said that the rise of social media and customer convenience would impact the way they craft their marketing strategies and handle business in the U.K. fashion industry. The report also said that almost three-quarters (72 percent) of 18- to 24-year-olds shop directly from their peer’s social media accounts, including Facebook and Instagram.

As a result of this, many U.K. retailers anticipate spending almost a quarter (22 percent) of their overall marketing budgets on social media platforms until 2021, compared to an average 9 percent this year.

To that end, FRA is positioning itself at the forefront of the U.K. fashion industry’s digital transformation by encouraging people to pursue digital retail jobs. The college has launched “Retail Reimagined,” an industry-led careers campaign that helps students secure employment opportunities and assists British retailers with talent acquisition.

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“In the meantime, we’ll also work to upskill those already in the industry through our existing and upcoming courses at FRA, establishing a new competency model to make certain that talent development remains focused on the industry’s imminent needs,” Fashion Retail Academy principal Lee Lucas said. “Going further, we will not only a create a new framework for what our courses should cover, aligned to the competencies identified through the report, but also develop a new technical vocational standard which looks beyond the narrow view of current qualifications structures.”