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Soft skills and employability : evidence from UK retail

Nickson, D.P. and Warhurst, C. and Commander, J. and Hurrell, S.A. and Cullen, A.M. (2012) Soft skills and employability : evidence from UK retail. Economic and Industrial Democracy, 33 (1). pp. 65-84. ISSN 0143-831X

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Abstract

This article contributes to on-going debates about soft skills in front-line interactive service work in considering employability in the UK retail sector. It recognises how UK government policy has emphasised the importance of qualifications in enhancing employability. However, it suggests that for front-line work in retail it is soft skills that are required to access entry level jobs. The article notes how these soft skills have traditionally been dominated by debates about emotional labour. Drawing on a survey of 173 clothing, footwear and leather goods retailers the article argues for a need to recognise the broadening of soft skills to also include aesthetic labour. The article concludes by discussing the implications of the broadening of soft skills with regard to policy initiatives to encourage the long-term unemployed into the retail sector.