July 8th 2015 Freemasons Hall
Leading figures in the UK’s retail industry tonight celebrated 10 years of the Fashion Retail Academy (FRA) at an event in Covent Garden, London with headline act Paloma Faith and special guest US recording artist Ciara .
Arcadia Group owner Sir Philip Green was joined by other founding academy supporters and industry leaders including Marc Bolland, CEO, Marks and Spencer, Jason Tarry, Chief Product Officer, Tesco and Tom Blacksell, Managing Director, Experian Marketing Services to celebrate a decade of the Fashion Retail Academy; which prides itself on educating young minds to give them the skills required for a career in retail.
This mile stone event hosted by Vernon Kay - whose wife Tess Daly also took to the stage to present the prestigious Commitment award - saw market leaders and FRA Principal Lee Lucas toast the achievements of past and present alumni. The impact the FRA has had on the industry, job creation and preparing future talent were lauded as the academy’s key successes.
Founder, Sir Philip said:
"Ten years have gone by in a flash and I would like to thank the founding partners for helping me bring my vision to life. We have been fortunate to have been able to provide endless opportunities and are very proud our 90% employment rate over ten years for our level four students. The success rate of the students is testament to our tutors who do a fantastic job every single day. We now look towards the future of the FRA in this digital era. The industry is changing and we want to find and support future innovators of the fashion world".
Ten years ago Sir Philip had what seemed at the time an impossible dream of opening a vocational academy to prepare future leaders for the fashion retail industry. Support was quickly gained along with funding from the five founding companies – Arcadia, Marks & Spencer, Next, F&F at Tesco and Experian. The educational support in the development of the curriculum was provided by the University of the Arts, and the Government were delighted to support and fund the new venture.
In 2005, the first 50 students started in the temporary facilities at the London College of Fashion on one of two year long programmes. Level 2, equivalent to 5 GCSEs or Level 3, equivalent to 2 A Levels.
Within a year a building had been purchased, completely re-fitted and opened by the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair. Student numbers were rapidly growing and the support from the retail industry was overwhelming with new retailers signing up all the time.
Returning to celebrate the academy’s achievements the Right Honourable Tony Blair took to the stage and said:
"When Sir Philip came to meet me at number 10 to discuss his vision he wanted to create something that was not a school but an academy. Somewhere that valued and taught to the best degree and maximised young people's potential. Our country is a leader in design and creativity and the FRA has helped nurture it's students and excite them about future possibilities."
Today, as it celebrates its ten year anniversary, the FRA can boast at having trained over 5000 full time students, 1255 students on short courses and 95 students on the post graduate programme.
Finishing with a special performance from Paloma Faith, who brought the house down with an exclusive set, this truly was a celebration of retail talent.
The Fashion Retail Academy is committed to nurturing young minds by giving them the skill sets needed to work in the retail arena. This ethos remains as true today as when it opened its doors 10 years ago and with plans for further expansion and development it has proved itself a worthy contributor to the economy and education.
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FRA graduates are filling jobs – over 60% of Level 4 graduates leave with work and over 10 years 90% of Level 4 students surveyed are in employment. Across the whole cohort, 77% are in employment and 13% are in higher or further education.
The curriculum offer has grown in response to the needs of the retail industry and the offer is now 13 courses including work based learning through apprenticeships and the Tesco Enspire programme.
The strategic plan for the next decade is well developed and the building will undergo a major refurbishment over the summer to support the growth plans.
The FRA is proud to be a unique example of a truly employer led college created BY the industry FOR the industry.
Total contribution to UK plc from FRA: £128m
For every £1 of public money invested in the FRA it has generated £8 of value to the UK economy
Over £30m of tax revenue to HMRC from employed graduates*
*Salary data from external graduate survey
Over £98m of Gross Value Add to the UK Fashion Retail Sector*
* GVA per employee from ONS data.
Current course offer:
Level 2 Fashion Retail
Level 3 National Diploma in Fashion Retail
Level 3 National Diploma in Fashion Clothing
Level 3 National Diploma in Graphic Design
Level 4 Fast Track Buying and Merchandising Diploma
Level 4 Diploma in Buying and Range Planning
Level 4 Diploma in Merchandising
Level 4 Fast Track Diploma in Visual Merchandising
Level 4 Diploma in Visual Display and Retail Branding
Level 4 Diploma in Garment Technology • Level 4 Diploma in Fashion Retail UAL Foundation Degree
Level 4 Enspire Programme with Tesco
Graduates - where are they now?
18 % working at sponsors, 33 % at top 25 companies (see below ) and 49% all other companies
Top 25 Brands (New Look, River Island, ASOS, H&M, Selfridges, John Lewis, Ted Baker, Primark, Harvey Nichols, Harrods, Lipsy, House of Fraser, Debenhams, Chanel, LVMH, Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, Zara, Burberry, Hugo Boss, Jaeger, Warehouse, Fenwick, Liberty, BHS)
Over ten years 76.4% of graduates are employed and 12.8% are in Higher or Further Education.
Graduated: 2006, Level 3 Fashion Retail
Working at: The Idle Man, online menswear retailer
Thom left FRA and joined Selfridges as an Allocator. He gained some buying experience before becoming Menswear Accessories Buyer and then moved to Topman as Concessions, Jewellery and Shoe Buyer. At 25, he was approached to set up a new online business called The Idle Man. Thom won the Drapers 30 Under 30 in November 2014.
“The FRA was totally and utterly life changing. Without the tutors and experience that I had there, my life would not be the same. They spotted skills in me that I didn’t even know I had – and they nurtured and supported me in my career choices. It changed my life and I hope it continues to change the lives of others.”
Graduated: 2008, Level 3 Fashion Retail
Working at: Paul Smith, Retail Manager
Ahmed has a passion for stores and secured his first management role at Moss Bros. He was nominated for Drapers 30 under 30 in 2013.
“The FRA has given me a truly unique learning experience and supported me succeeding in gaining my ideal career.”
Graduated: 2013, Level 3 Fashion Retail and Level 4 Buying and Range Planning
Working at: Marks & Spencer Buying Assistant
“Choosing the Fashion Retail Academy was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I knew fashion was the industry I wanted a career in but wasn’t quite sure what field was right for me, so the Level 3 Fashion Retail Diploma allowed me the opportunity to discover multiple aspects of retail. The work experience opportunities were a key highlight for me, as this was invaluable knowledge that you could not learn in a classroom, and set me up for a career in retail. There is nothing I would change about my time at the Fashion Retail Academy, only that I wish I could have stayed longer!”
Graduated: 2014, Level 3 in Fashion Retail and Level 4 Buying
Working at: Next Trainee Buyer, Womenswear Blouses, Dresses & Skirts
“The Level 3 course really confirmed for me that I wanted to go into buying, and Level 4 taught me all I needed to know to begin my career and gave me so many opportunities. I took part in the Next competition and from this was given a work placement, which eventually gave me my job here as a Trainee Buyer. I was lucky enough to receive 4 job offers and the Student Ambassador award when I graduated.”
The FRA now has a new strategy which will enable it to continue to grow over the next ten years. It will continue to proactively respond to the needs of the sector and match these to the aspirations of our students. In summary:
- Double student numbers over 3 years from 800 to 1600
- Pioneer a wider portfolio of market leading qualifications with a focus on digital skills:
Next year will launch a new Level 4 Digital Skills for Retail programme developed in partnership with Accenture, our employer base, with support from Oracle and Experian
For 2015/2016 we will also launch Digital Marketing at Levels 3 and 4
- Roll out new delivering models for Level 3 and Level 4 courses including ‘fast track’, ‘intensive’ and ‘roll on roll off’ delivery, offering a constant feed of new entrants to the sector and a choice of programme duration for students
- Offer Traineeships and Apprenticeships
- Reinstate and expand upon the FRA Higher Education offer
- Implement online and blended learning
- Expand and develop the increasingly popular portfolio of professional development, short courses and consultancy
- Develop a schools offer; including taster provision and careers advice with a view to the FRA launching a regional/national careers programme on behalf of the sector
- Continue the relentless drive on quality to ensure the best educational experience for learners
More information at: www.fashionretailacademy.ac.uk