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Retail ladders project

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  • 1. Introduction Following Southampton Solent University’s successful project bid ‘Retail Ladders’ the Foundation Degree in Retail (Fd), BSc (Hons) Retail Management and MSc Retail Management have been developed. The Retail Ladders project is a BIS funded Credit Accumulation and Transfer Pilot Project. The UK retail sector is big, complex and very diverse. It includes world class international companies, innovative independents, and many retailers struggling to survive in an extremely competitive environment with rapidly changing consumer habits. Within the local environs economic modelling (EMSI) analyses employment profiles with Solent’s 85 minute enrolment catchment, looking at employment trends between 2011 and 2016 (Jan 12). This analysis provides an indication as to the changing shape of the labour market across the region and can help assess current and future course provision based on employment prospects for graduates. Predictions for 2016 show a gentle upward trajectory to circa 800,000 jobs. Clearly, within Southampton and the wider region the potential for retail careers is significant. These courses target those already in the workplace seeking to enhance and develop their qualifications and experience. The Fd title ‘Retail’ reflects the practice of retailing as the functions and activities involved in the selling of commodities directly to consumers. The pivotal elements of these functions and activities are explored within the units. The student is likely to be of a level in the work environment where this overarching approach is appropriate. The BSc and the MSc reflect the middle/senior/executive management cohort, likely to be middle career professionals seeking validation of their skills and experience, augmented by academic endeavour. These students are likely to be progressing through the Retail Management career trajectory, hence the reflection of the practice of management in BSc (Hons) Retail Management and MSc Retail Management nomenclature. The Retail Ladders project, whilst tightly focused on serving the needs of the retail sector, is transferable. The overarching delivery model can be disseminated and adapted to address other sectors. It is based on flexibility, blended learning methods and a ‘step on, step off’ progression approach that are readily adaptable. Strategies: The strategic intent of Southampton Solent University is well met by this project and the development of these degrees:  Inclusive and flexible forms of Higher Education that meet market needs;  Imaginative working partnerships with Further Education and employers;  A significant contribution to social justice and economic competitiveness for Southampton and its region;  Knowledge creation and exchange that fuse academic rigour and professional practice;  Excellent student employability;  Entrepreneurship and diversified income streams;
  • 2. The Retail Ladders project has supported the design of courses to enable graduates to demonstrate knowledge and vocational understanding of the retail industry and the principles that drive retail developments. On 3rd October 2012 the proposal and overarching plan for the suite of courses was taken to, and shared with the Southampton Retail Skills Shop Steering Group Meeting. The proposal was greeted with enthusiasm and the potential for SMEs highlighted by the group. It was recognised that perhaps the suite of degrees will be quite a ‘slow burn’ and that it will be potentially easier to promote and understand once SSBS has a product ‘out there’ and there are students with a track record of attendance and achievement. Academically challenging and rigorous and combined with work based learning, students will be supported in their studies at Southampton Solent University by a number of academics with successful Retail backgrounds who understand and have worked in the industry. A number of the Senior Lecturers have significant retail experience across a number of facets within the industry. There are also Associate Lecturers who bring their industry experience both past and contemporary to enhance the team. USPs  Work based learning ensures that the course is relevant, current and ‘on the job’ and enables students to ‘earn and learn’.  Southampton Solent Business School (SSBS) has significant expertise and proven success in Blended Learning delivery.  Programmes that reflect the real world professional practice of retailing and retail management in the business environment by taking a thematic approach to management study.  Non-standard entry encouraged and facilitated.  CMI recognition at MSc level has been applied for. Work-based learning The development of programmes of study in Higher Education institutions geared to continuing professional development through 'work-based learning' has increased dramatically. The growing recognition of the importance of the accumulation of credit and its portability, the significance of accrediting/assessing prior learning, and the negotiation of work-based and problem-focused projects, has led to the development of a range of flexible programmes for participants across the UK. The current UK government’s emphasis on flexible modes of delivery as important mechanisms for realising the higher skills agenda, can be evidenced, for example, by the rapid growth of undergraduate and postgraduate work-based learning programmes. In Higher Ambitions: The Future of Universities in a Knowledge Economy (2009), it is clear that all universities will be expected to explain how they will improve graduates' career opportunities and to educate students in workplace skills and that: The next phase of expansion in higher education will hinge on providing opportunities for different types of people to study in a wider range of ways than in the past. The focus will therefore be on a greater diversity of models of learning: part-time, work-based, foundation degrees, and studying whilst at home. (p4)
  • 3. This renewed emphasis on higher level skill and workforce development is, in part a response to the work of Leitch (2006) whose report sets out in detail the place of the UK in world economies. Foundation Degree in Retail (Fd) The Fd offers a route through for L3 students from Brockenhurst College (and other colleges) and consolidates the apprentice route and scheme. Brockenhurst College were successful in their bid to operate the Retail Skills Shop for Southampton. The Retail Skills Shop Southampton grew out of a rising need to provide retailers and those looking for a career in retail with high quality training provision and a support network. Working with the National Skills Academy for Retail (People 1st ), Brockenhurst College are part of the largest network of retail skills shops in the country which means the training offered is consistent and quality-marked whilst still meeting the needs of our retailers and the local community. Through Brockenhurst and the Retail Skills Shop, apprentice and higher apprentice routes are the basis for progression to the Fd. This Fd is a work based course delivered in a blended mode and this supports learners within their work environment. Many of the units are predicated upon reflection on the student’s work place and work experience. The L5 unit Personal and Professional Development presents opportunities for identification and research into a specified area of retail management; this is probably (but not exclusively) likely to be based on the student’s own work place. Delivered innovatively through myknowledgemap via the SOL pages the content of the course was developed through the Retail Consortium. With retail partner Tesco, the Foundation Degree Forward (fdf) led consortium designed this Foundation degree to improve business performance. Underpinned by workforce development needs, it created a flexible higher education, university awarded, qualification for the retail industry; to make knowledge and skills transferable across the sector. The New Challenges New Chances (NCNC) report (2011) highlighted, based on the principles set out in Skills for Sustainable Growth, the aspiration of a ladder of opportunity of comprehensive Vocational Education and Training programmes: “From community learning and basic skills through to high-quality Apprenticeships, to clear and flexible progression routes to Higher Vocational Education. Many responses to the consultation on NCNC emphasised the need to make progression routes to higher education from apprenticeships, vocational and professional qualifications clearer and more easily navigable. In order to achieve this, institutions in both higher and further education need to develop ways of working together, particularly in the alignment of the systems they operate. A key area is the development of jointly-recognised credit systems, meaning that learning acquired in an FE, vocational or professional context is recognised and valued by HE institutions, (and vice versa) and counts towards the achievement of qualifications.” The report highlighted co-operative proposals that focus on increasing credit accumulation and transfer opportunities in support of progression across the adult skills, further and higher education sectors. This Fd Retailing enables L3 students and those with non- standard entry profile and/or qualifications to progress to HE. Southampton Solent University offers excellent transitional support through its Professional Development Unit
  • 4. (PDU) – Personal Development for Higher Education. This is a bridging course which prepares prospective students for a Foundation Degree. This PDU is specifically designed to help students make the step up into higher education. The PDU – Bridge the Gap is also available and this too serves to bridge the gap and create a pathway through Further and Higher Education. The degree was developed in partnership with key retail employers, to contribute to the narrowing of skills gaps; to give improved chances of career progression, both within and outside the retail industry; and to develop retail employees at supervisory/junior management positions in specific aspects of their job role or collectively. Nationally where Fds are developed for professional learners it is common for the Fd to be 2 years ‘FT’. The self-managed, work based learning is pivotal to the learning within the Fd. However each of the course Units (20 credits each) have been validated on a stand- alone basis but designed to accumulate to a full Fd. BSc (Hons) Retail Management (top-up) This course complements the university strategy for employer engagement and the development of business relationships within the private sector within Southampton. The course will also build on the knowledge gained in developing and delivering other level 6 ‘top-up’ programmes within the business school. The BSc (Hons) Retail Management is primarily designed to be a level 6 ‘top-up’ professional development programme for awards FD Credits and APEL. Foremost among these awards is the Foundation Degree, (Fd) in Retail. Potentially the programme would be available to any FD, not necessarily those exclusively provided by FBSE. AP(E)L arrangements are such that the degree will be attractive to entrants (and employers) who wish to accredit their prior retail development experience and achievement. This will present employees and employers alike to ‘top up’ existing training and development provision to a BSc (Hons). The Retail Work Based Project, undertaken in collaboration with employer identification of an issue that will be of benefit to the business, present students with the opportunity to hone skills developed within the Fd to a more robust academic level. It should be noted that this work based project is not a project in isolation. The assessment demands a portfolio which presents students with the opportunity to also reflect upon their own contribution to the organisation and relate what they have learned from the project to their own personal and professional development within a retail context. For students who undertake the L6 top-up based on a non-standard or alternative entry, the project will enhance employability and also maintain academic rigour. The degree is designed to enable graduates to demonstrate a knowledge and vocational understanding of the retail industry and the principles that drive retail developments. Students will be able to propose creative yet practical solutions to complex problems within a retail management context, and make appropriate and effective management decisions within a retail business. They will become able to effectively communicate information, arguments and analysis concerning key themes and issues in retailing using a variety of methods to a range of audiences; they will be able to critically evaluate the appropriateness of different approaches to problem solving in a retail context; and they
  • 5. will demonstrate key skills, including people management, that will enhance their career opportunities and achieve business development goals. Whilst recognising that the development therefore, is supported as part of an overarching project and funding the proposals and development have, nonetheless, been taken out to industry. A selection of industry connections is highlighted within the market research. MSc Retail Management This course will provide a route to academic and professional recognition for range of students – those with traditional academic qualifications and those who wish to APEL their experience of the Retail industry and work towards academic recognition. Employability and the related skills are at the heart of this programme with a suite of real world learning opportunities, work based learning and work based applied learning. This blended route is developed and focused towards students within the work place and indeed in current management roles. The MSc Retail Management has seven core units which integrate theory and practice with a real world agenda throughout. These units cover the CPD and skills required of a student embarking on management study; the day to day work of management; the strategic work of management; a unit to reflect the current issues in business to which managers are required to respond and lastly the research skills to enable these units and the research project units which follow. Such units are in the context of research of organisations who proffered that they needed leadership who could contextualise their industry in the wider business environment. The project unit demands a retail centric piece of work. All content will correspond with QAA Benchmark guidelines. The design of the learning, teaching and assessment strategy is discussed in greater detail in section 1.6. Subject areas for MSc Retail Management will focus on a wide range of topics which will be integrated within the unit themes detailed above. Within Management in Context (the day to day work of management), indicative content includes people, money, operations, law, communications, teams and statistics; within Organisational Development (the strategic work of management), indicative content includes (perhaps run by simulation), strategic management, marketing, leadership, innovation, product development; in the core unit Business Issues and Practice, as an example technological change, change management, CSR and/or cross cultural management. Delivery Modes This proposal considers Blended Learning in the context of the definition found in the university’s academic handbook (section 4f), where Blended Learning aims to enhance the student learning experience by recognising differing learning requirements and expectations. It involves the thoughtful and creative integration of information and communications media with face to face teaching. The course development team has redress to the significant experience in this area from the development and delivery of the MA Business Studies which was used as an HEA case study in 2010 alongside the FDA blended learning. Through following the HEA sponsored Discipline Focused Learning Technology Enhancement Academy programme, we developed exemplar blended learning units and our project and developments was subsequently showcased as an HEA case study. The team have had a range of publications and conference presentations as a result of these enhancements.

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