It’s no secret that recruitment is a challenge. Over two-thirds (68%) of UK employers say they have struggled to find workers with the skills they need, according to a recent report (source: Edge).
Attracting and retaining skilled talent is a difficult task for any industry, but is perhaps felt more by the jewellery industry. With innovation and social impact being key factors in many young people’s career choices, the jewellery industry can pale in comparison on the job market when pitched next to flashy tech start-ups and digital monopolies like Google. So how can we compete?
The answer could be entry-level training programmes, such as apprenticeships and internships
Access to development opportunities and innovation are important factors for employee retention and are also two key pillars that form apprenticeship programmes. The future success of the jewellery and watch industry depends on the recruitment of young and promising talents, and apprenticeships can offer the solution.
Apprenticeships and ‘on the job’ training skills bridge the gap between education and employment
One in three graduates are mismatched to their first job, according to recent research by Universities UK (source: Guardian). In the jewellery industry, reports suggest that many graduates are lacking in industry experience, creating a lack of employable skills once they qualify (source: Financial Times). The education system as it stands, may not be enough to prepare young people for work. Apprenticeships could offer a much-needed bridging process. By offering tailored training programmes and real industry experience through 6-12 month placements, the jewellery industry can develop school-leavers and graduates skills into valuable assets for the industry. Apprenticeships and internships can also offer a try-before-you-buy approach to working in the industry, ensuring that staff are well-matched to roles.
The jewellery industry needs digital skills – and apprentices can deliver them
Whilst heritage is often a key pillar of jewellery and watch branding, it can leave the industry feeling outdated – jewellery is not often thought to be at the cutting edge of digital. Yet the industry must be if it wants to survive. And with 34% of employers struggling to recruit employees with digital and ICT skills (up from 28% in 2018), the jewellery industry faces increasing competition to attract talent in an increasingly competitive recruitment market (source: Edge Report).
Fortunately, apprenticeships offer a way to harness and develop digital skills. Millennials live and breathe digital; 73% of millennials use their phones to shop online (source: Adweek), and it is this digital mindset that is crucial for future-proofing the jewellery industry. Retail skills are not the only asset that employees need to deliver, and junior staff can offer the wider skillset needed to help jewellery businesses thrive, such as digital expertise, data analysis and omnichannel marketing.
To harness this, training programmes should offer a two-way communication process. Employers have a lot to offer employees, but the youth of today also has a lot to offer in return. 90% of millennials want senior leadership to listen to their input and 75% believe their boss could learn a lot from them (source: Forbes). Young employees do not just want to be trained and told what to do, they want to collaborate and share ideas. Nurturing two-way communication and training will encourage staff to feel valued and that their voice and skills are important to your business. As staff retention is an issue – a survey by Deloitte found that nearly half of millennials plan to leave their roles within two years (source: Telegraph) – offering a training programme and environment that caters to young peoples’ attitudes and values will increase loyalty.
Exam grades are not the only measure of talent
For many employers, graduates are the gold-star standard when it comes to recruitment. A graduate offers a certain standard of education, which many interpret means employability. However, exam grades are not the only measure of talent or employability. International research by LinkedIn revealed that 92% of employers said that so-called ‘soft skills’ – such as communication skills, people skills and emotional intelligence – are equally or more important than hard skills (source: Edge Report).
Social mobility is stagnating (source: The Guardian), so apprenticeships could offer valuable access to training programmes and be a powerful force for social mobility. But for this to work, employers must appreciate the value that is delivered by training and moulding staff through these programmes. According to a Deloitte report, many young people will leave a company because they feel they don’t get the resources, training, guidance and/or support from leadership (source: Deloitte). Apprenticeships offer young people a clear training path and the chance to grow and develop with your company.
Supported internships and apprenticeship programmes are also valuable in mobilising young people with learning difficulties who may find it difficult to find work through traditional routes, but still have a lot to offer employers. Through investing in assisted learning programmes, employers can open up the workplace to young adults with special needs and equip them with the skills they need for sustainable employment. Businesses can sign up to offer structured learning placements to young people aged 16-24 who have a disability or health condition.
The placements are unpaid and take place alongside a school or college programme, so participants have the opportunity to achieve professional qualifications alongside their work. Young people who take part in the program can receive funding from the Department for Work and Pensions’ Access to Work fund for costs including travel, Job Coach support and specialist equipment. As with any employee, proper management of the participant is needed, however many placements use a Job Coach to offer extra support to the intern and employer. The goal for the end of the programme is for employers to offer their trainee full-time paid employment. As the trainee has been completing work that is valuable to the business throughout their programme, they have a good chance of employment. (For more information, visit the UCAS website)
How can the jewellery industry attract this type of employee?
Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025 (source: Chief Learning Officer). So, how can jewellery business owners attract young, digitally-savvy staff, whilst maintaining this image of classic heritage?
The answer is with a carefully cultivated company culture. Nurturing a sense of community within your business that is aligned with staff goals and interests will not only help to maintain loyalty with current staff but also help to attract new staff that value similar things.
It’s also important for employers to consider flexibility, with a third of millennials preferring flexible working to a pay rise (source Powwownow). In an age where everyone is constantly ‘switched on’, thanks to mobile devices and increasingly strengthening network connections, the traditional working hours of 9am-5pm have become outdated. The internet allows many of us to work any time, anywhere, and younger staff members are likely to want to be empowered to choose their working hours to reflect this.
Young staff members have a huge amount to contribute to the jewellery and watch industry, but many may need support and training to bridge the gap between education and employment. Whilst apprenticeships and training programmes may seem like a substantial investment for employers, the rewards are indispensable.
Millennials are the future buyers and purveyors of the jewellery and watch trade, and the industry cannot survive without their engagement and support.
By Danny Toffel, founder and director of Watches2U International, the UK’s largest independent retailer of branded watches. Watches2U works with over 200 of the world’s top fashion brands, from Casio and Michael Kors to Fossil and Hugo Boss