The London Chamber of Commerce & Industry Examinations Board (LCCIEB) has joined forces with Skillsmart, the sector skills council for retail, to create a new qualification designed specifically for the retail industry.

Developed after extensive work with retailers to define skill shortages and requirements for the industry, the new qualification provides successful candidates with a nationally recognisable, portable qualification – a first for the retail sector.

Safeway, Asda and Selfridges were enlisted to help ensure the qualification's validity. All three participated in a successful pilot that helped shape the qualification and ensured it covered the universal skills required of employees and met the administrative and technical needs of employers.

Rather than obliging employers to create and implement a new development system, the qualification enables retailers to use their existing in-house training programmes to meet the requirements of the certificate in retail skills (CRS).

Nigel Snook, chief executive of LCCIEB, said: 'To develop a qualification that will work in and contribute to the workplace, it is essential that employers be involved from the outset. We have worked with Skillsmart to ensure that our qualification is cost and time efficient and is flexible enough to meet the demanding requirements of the industry.' Skillsmart's chief executive, Nigel Broome, added: 'The CRS is a major step in the development of retail qualifications framework. Retailers needed something that would address the need to improve skills in the sector but still fitted into their existing training strategies. The CRS matches these criteria. The certificate will for the first time provide a universally recognisable qualification for retail, one that has common currency. It is a first and vital step in Skillsmart's aim to alter preconceptions of retailing – to demonstrate that retail offers a viable and attractive career path.' The CRS consists of three core units covering health & safety, workplace security and effective working. Employers are then free to choose five units from a comprehensive list of 13 optional units, allowing them to tailor the award to the needs of the company and the requirements of the individual's role.