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Retail and food workers risk soft skills ‘deficit’

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Employees in the retail and food services sectors are at risk of being held back by a lack of soft skills, according to a report commissioned by McDonald's UK.

The report by Development Economics warns that more than 122,000 workers in these sectors will lack skills in areas such as communication, teamwork and time management, leading to poor performance. This breaks down as 60,573 retail workers and 61,549 employees in accommodation and food services.

Comparatively, sectors such as health and social care and professional services are less at risk, with the research finding 53,000 and 41,000 employees respectively are likely to be held back by a soft skills deficit.

Previous research has found soft skills are worth £88 billion to the UK economy, and almost £8 billion to retail and food services alone.

Businesses appear to recognise the value of soft skills, with 70% of employers in the retail sector saying soft skills are more important than academic qualifications. A further 97% of retail businesses said soft skills are important to business success, and 65% said such skills would only become more important.

McDonald’s UK and Northern Europe chief people officer Jez Langhorn said for his business soft skills are “vital” to “our commercial success, to the individual success of our people, and to making sure our customers have a great experience with us”.

CIPD head of skills and policy campaigns Katerina Rudiger said: “Our members regularly tell us that so-called 'soft skills', such as communication, teamwork and resilience, are among the key attributes they look for when they recruit.

“If young people are to be able to transition successfully from education to the world of work they must be given the opportunity to develop and demonstrate these skills.”