Retailers and tech firms support Hour of Code initiative

This week is Computer Science Education Week (5-11 December) and there are multiple partners from the retail, tech and education space getting involved in its Hour of Code initiative.

Designed to raise awareness of computer science and teach people the basic skills of computer programming, the initiative is organised by non-profit organisation and is marketed as the biggest technology learning event around the world. Internet retailers Amazon and Asos are listed as official UK partners, while online luxury fashion house Yoox Net-a-Porter (YNAP) is taking part in the UK and Italy.

In total, 100,000 events are being held in more than 180 countries.

YNAP says it will offer lessons in the UK and Italy, with experts from the company's technology team teaching coding to children and young people aged four to 16 at a number of primary and secondary schools, higher learning and training centres in London, Milan and Bologna – the cities where the group has its principal offices.

The scheme provides students with the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of programming and a chance to engage with computer science, testing out coding programs that will allow them to develop new innovations themselves.

Alex Alexander, CIO at YNAP and former multichannel technology director at Asda, said: "The demands of tomorrow's workplace are rapidly changing and it is critically important that we equip future generations with the skills they need to thrive.

"Our tech teams in the UK and Italy look forward to being part of the Hour of Code, sharing their passion for combining creativity and technology to code the future."

Other partners involved in the UK include Google, Microsoft and Tech City, while the major US partners and corporate donors in the US – where the initiative was formed – include the aforementioned Google and Microsoft, as well as companies such as Dropbox, Rovio and Salesforce.

Also coinciding with Computer Science Education Week this year is the release of education figures showing the performance of 72 countries around the globe.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) figures published on Tuesday 6 December show the UK is still trailing behind other countries at education, making limited progress in the international rankings since results three years ago despite the government's aim to make the UK schools among the best in the world.

The OECD Pisa rankings are based on tests taken by 15-year-olds, with Singapore leading the way in maths, science and reading. Neil Carberry, Confederation of British Industry director for people & skills policy, said the drop in England's overall performance will concern the business community.

"The most effective response to today's findings is focusing on what works across mathematics, reading and science – high-quality leaders teaching an engaging curriculum which delivers strong basic skills, attitudes and behaviours that can equip young people to succeed," explained Carberry.

"Alongside this, businesses have a key role to play in improving every school across the country through joining governing bodies, offering clear routes to high-quality apprenticeships, careers advice and work experience, regardless of a young person's background or where they live."

Retail learning at One Stop

This week saw Tesco-owned convenience chain One Stop re-engineer its training programme, which aims to help franchisees further develop their teams free of charge.

Designed to ensure franchisees and their store teams are compliant with Trading Standards and current UK retail legislation, the programme which was designed in house covers areas such as staff retention, customer service and efficient retailing practices. The courses are web-based and accessible via the retailer's back office systems or via employees' own devices.

The training comprises interactive video lessons focusing on operational and legal issues, with the first six sessions covering Customer Care, Age Restricted Products, Security, Credit Card Machines and Health & Safety. Additional lessons can be accessed dependant on job role.

Franchisee Aman Uppal (pictured below), of One Stop Mount Nod in Coventry, said the company's e-learning scheme has helped get his staff up to speed with "the basic retailing skills".

"The tool is very easy to use and will help with their job development and motivation," he added.

"We now have the assurance that our staff are legally safe and compliant, and by having training records for every staff member, I can prove that I have due diligence in place if the authorities ever approach me. This is one of the many examples of the way in which One Stop continues to innovate and improve their support for franchisees."