Sainsbury’s becomes largest employer to offer nationally recognised qualifications to entire workforce |

Sainsbury’s becomes largest employer to offer nationally recognised qualifications to entire workforce

Sainsbury’s is to become the first retailer and largest employer to offer its entire workforce of 150,000 colleagues the opportunity to gain nationally recognised qualifications, equivalent to GCSE standard*, which supports the Government’s strategy to boost skills amongst the UK’s workforce. The retailer has set a target for 25% of all colleagues to have a nationally recognised qualification within the next five years.

The supermarket’s chief executive, Justin King and Secretary of State for Skills, John Denham, today launched the nationwide initiative which is open to all new and existing colleagues.

The Level 1 numeracy and literacy qualification supports those who want to brush up on their maths and English skills and at the same time gain a nationally recognised qualification. It is equivalent to one GCSE and training is a web based maths and English learning programme helping colleagues to improve numeracy and literacy skills at their own pace. Recent government statistics reveal that 5.2 million adults have English language skills below GCSE level, and everyday tasks such as helping children with homework or managing weekly household budgets can be a struggle.

Recent research identified a lack of confidence as the biggest barrier to learning, which is why the Level 1 training is completely confidential and can be undertaken without the involvement of line managers or peers. A dedicated e-tutor is assigned to each colleague who enrols.

Through embedded training in the work place, Sainsbury’s is also the first retailer to offer every colleague the opportunity to achieve an NVQ level 2 qualification which is the equivalent to five GCSEs at A-C grade.

The Level 2 NVQ recognises colleagues’ skills and capabilities as all ‘on the job training’ will be credited towards the qualification. This means that the essential training required to work in areas such as stock control, visual merchandising, health and safety and administration will now count towards an NVQ level 2 qualification.

Sainsbury’s chief executive, Justin King, said: “This launch demonstrates that learning never stops at Sainsbury’s and every one of our colleagues can improve their skills, which not only benefits our customers, but also supports our colleagues to achieve their full potential.”

“It is our intention that at least 25% of our colleagues will achieve a nationally recognised qualification in the next five years.”

John Denham, Skills Secretary said: “I commend Sainsbury’s for taking this step. We know that those companies that invest in skills are best equipped to weather tough economic times, and are also best placed to capitalise on opportunities for growth.

“I hope other companies will follow their example, and make learning new skills and, where possible, gaining relevant qualifications, an integral part of work.

“This Government is committed to working with employers like Sainsbury’s to create a skills and training system which directly meets their present and future needs. In particular, the Train to Gain service, in which we will invest £1bn a year by 2010/11, is now more responsive than ever to the specific requirements of individual businesses, ensuring every employee can develop the right skills, at the right time and to the right level.”

Anne Seaman, Chief Executive, Skillsmart Retail said: “We have worked very closely with the team at Sainsbury’s to help them embed Apprenticeships and NVQs within their day-to-day business operations. Their new online Skills for Life tool will help to create a level playing field for all staff who want to raise their skills levels and contribute to the success of the business.”

Sainsbury’s was the first supermarket to sign the government’s skills pledge in June 2007 committing the company to support our employees to gain the skills required to make our business succeed and grow.

Notes to editors:

* Level 1 numeracy or literacy qualification is equivalent to 1 GCSE at grade D and is called ‘Skills for Life’.

The Skills for Life website is

Each colleague is initially assessed and the online service produces a study plan designed just for them; they are then given password details and can log onto the web based training anywhere and work at their own pace. Every colleague will received a certificate and a £50 voucher will be issued to the first 2000 colleagues who complete the online course.

Sainsbury’s has developed a series of programmes called “You Can”, which are opportunities to inspire potential and existing colleagues such as training, job related qualifications and apprenticeships; it also includes offering new job opportunities to people through working with MENCAP, ex-offenders organisations and Remploy.

Sainsbury’s remains the only retailer to offer three craft apprenticeships. The scheme began in bakery, but has now expanded to fish and meat and the chance to study for an NVQ level 2 (which is equivalent to five GCSEs at A-C grade) and other qualifications whilst also gaining specialist skills have proved really popular.

The Skills for Life Strategy was launched in 2001 to tackle the legacy of adults with poor literacy, language and numeracy skills within England. The strategy aims to help create a society where adults have the basic skills they need to find and keep work and participate fully in society, through:

* Boosting demand for learning
* Ensuring capacity of the learning provider delivery system
* Improving standards of teaching and learning
* Increasing learner achievement

The Skills for Life National Needs and Impact Survey of Literacy, Numeracy and IT skills, published in October 2003, estimated that in England, 5.2 million adults aged 16-65 have literacy levels below Level 1 (broadly equivalent in difficulty to an English GCSE at grades D-G), and 6.8 million have numeracy skills below Entry Level 3 (the level expected of 11 year olds). The full survey is available at

The Learning and Skills Council’s “Get On” campaign, which was first launched by the then Department for Education and Skills in 2001, is part of the Government’s Skills for Life Strategy. The campaign encourages the millions of people in England who experience difficulties with literacy, language and numeracy skills, or would benefit from ‘brushing up’ on these skills.

In 2008 the Government exceeded the target to ensure that 2.25 million adults improved their skills and gained a qualification by 2010 - two years early. The Government plans to improve the literacy skills of 597,000 adults, and numeracy skills of 390,000 adults, over the next three years. This will be backed by a further £3.9 billion in Government funding between 2007/08 and 2010/11.

Sainsbury’s training programmes are accredited by awarding body EDI, a specialist in the accreditation of employer led qualifications -

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