Shop Direct, the parent company of retail brands Very.co.uk and Littlewoods.com, has teamed with the University of Liverpool in a bid to boost digital business talent in the North West.
The partnership aims to develop a joint programme of activity across STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and other business-related subjects, such as marketing and finance. It’s hoped the partnership will focus on data science and data analytics roles in retail, to address the current skills gap in the UK.
The power of real life business experience
Shop Direct is based in Speke and is the UK’s largest integrated digital retailer and financial services provider, with annual sales of £2bn. As part of the new partnership, it has become an employability partner of the University of Liverpool. Shop Direct is committed to working with academics to embed real world business projects into course modules and to offer internship opportunities and graduate roles to the University’s students.
Helen Miller, talent, culture and communications director at Shop Direct, explains: “We’re proud to partner with the University of Liverpool to develop the next generation of talent. Gaining experience in the workplace and of real life business projects helps undergraduates to develop their employability skills and stand out when they enter the job market.”
North West as a hub for tech and data careers
The university wants to show students that the North West is a hub for great tech and data careers, and specifically it aims to encourage more young women to apply for roles in these fields at businesses like Shop Direct, said Miller.
Shop Direct can trace its retail routes in the North West back to 1890 when Kay & Company was formed. Its longest standing retail brand, Littlewoods, started life in Liverpool in 1932 as a catalogue retailer.
AI talent for the future
UK businesses are crying out for professionals to unlock the potential of new technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence, says Professor Andrew Blake FREng FRS, Chair of the Royal Society’s working group on data science.
“Demand shows no sign of slowing down, and skill shortages that have plagued the economy for years will only get worse over time,” says Professor Blake.
His advice is: “More joint university and industry positions could help ensure that talented scientists stay in academia and train future generations to come. Universities may want to think about embracing this joint model for data science and AI, to help secure their AI talent for the future.”
Career opportunities for graduates
Emma Moore, director of careers and employability at the University of Liverpool, said: “Our growing partnership with Shop Direct, and the company’s refreshing approach to student and graduate recruitment, makes it possible for us to try innovative ways to expose students to industry connections throughout their university journey and ensure our graduates are prepared for work.
“It is fantastic to see so many of our students and graduates successfully securing roles within the business as a direct result of our collaboration.”