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Hot Topic: What can be done to close the skills gap in the UK?

With six in 10 businesses in the UK reporting that they are being 'held back' by a shortage of skilled employees, HR magazine asked Karen Beavan (pictured) HR director at River Island, for her thoughts on the skills gap.

"As a new generation of workers enters the employment market and is drawn into career paths that were not available five years ago, it is clear that traditional skills run the risk of dying out.

"This talent gap also reflects changing attitudes to work ethic, the way individuals learn and acquire knowledge, and attitudes to employee engagement - in addition to specific training.

"People are not as connected to their employers as they used to be. They used to talk about having a job for life, and it was considered damaging to your career if you moved from one employer to another. Now people actively seek to broaden their experience and market value by working for different businesses and industries. This means employers have to work harder to protect the tacit knowledge of their key talent.

"To address the issue of a potential talent paradox, employers need to establish engaging career pathways for their employees, supporting technical skills development and engaging employees with meaningful, rewarding work.

"A good career pathway programme will reflect core business functionalities, and plan for new and emerging areas of growth. Businesses need to prepare for their future skills requirements. International trade and the global workforces play a key role here too.

"This is something we take very seriously at River Island. As a much-loved presence on the high street, our brand has a fantastic 60-year history. Our employees and the unique family ethos of the company help shape the culture of the brand and we work hard to protect the traditional skills of British fashion retailing.

"We are fortunate to have fierce brand loyalty and longevity of service in key technical roles, too. People coming into our business have the pleasure of working with inspirational individuals who have helped to shape the fashion retail landscape in the UK. We are proud of this, and it helps us mitigate the impact of any talent paradox that may arise."