By Max Clarke

Retailers are investing an average of £1,275 per employee in training each year, making the world of work an increasingly tempting alternative to university, the British Retail Consortium have said.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) hosted a debate at yesterday's Labour Party Conference, called "Universities Challenged: is the world of work now the best option post-16?"

Retailers, the consortium noted, account for over 12 per cent of the UK's total training spend. The £1,275 average per year invested in each retail employee compares with a figure of just over £800 for staff in the financial sector and £1200 for those in manufacturing. In contrast, university courses will cost students up to £9,000 a year from 2012.

Retail employs nearly three million people in the UK and a third of them are 25 or younger, with some 40% of new retail jobs going to youth. This comes at a time when youth unemployment threatens to surpass 1,000,000 for the first time since the recession of the early 1980s.

"Many young people considering university will be worried about building up huge debts which will take years to pay off,” said the British Retail Consortium's Director General, Stephen Robertson.

“But a career in retail provides opportunities to develop skills such as buying, marketing, customer service and management. Skills learnt with one retailer are transferable, with employers across the sector recognising the value of on-the-job learning and development.”

"In retail you really can start on the shop floor and work your way to the top. Many well-known retail chief executives have done just that."

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