John Lewis to offer partners degree courses

Kasmira Jefford
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JOHN Lewis staff will this year be able to gain degree-like qualifications under a new work-based scheme called The University of John Lewis.

The department store chain said it will offer senior managers the chance to study for a pilot level 6 vocational qualification – equivalent to an honours degree – by the end of this year, in plans announced this weekend.

The move follows the launch of its apprenticeship scheme at the end of last year. Around 1,330 John Lewis partners gained a retail diploma on the back of the scheme, with a third picking up a level 3 qualification, which is at a standard equivalent to A-levels.

“There is an old-fashioned view that retail doesn’t offer people long-term career opportunities, but that is just no longer the case,” Laura Whyte, personnel director, said.

“Our partners give us our competitive edge, and if we want them to stay with us for the long-term, we need to make sure that they have the right skills to meet the challenges we face in an evolving retail environment.

Whyte added: “We want partners working at all levels of John Lewis, from selling assistants to branch managers, to have the opportunity to develop new skills and qualifications while still at work.”

Recent figures from the Department for Business showed over half a million people began an apprenticeship in 2011-12 – up 86 per cent on 2009-10 – as more people choose the workplace to begin their career instead of university.

Other businesses that have launched their own degree courses include fast-food chain KFC, which last month announced it will help fund a BA in business management at De Montfort University in Leicester for 60 restaurant managers over the next five years.

McDonald’s launched a similar scheme with Manchester Metropolitan University in 2010, offering their restaurant bosses a chance to study for a foundation degree in business management.