By Paula Coughlan, Chief People, Sustainability and Communications Officer. First published by the British Retail Consortium.

I bet many of you started your work experience with a weekend job. For me, it was at McDonalds when I was studying for my A levels. During one shift, I learnt an important life lesson. My manager was talking about training and had a simple message: “You’ve got to learn if you’re going to earn”.  That simple message of building skills that allow people to grow, develop their careers and advance financially has stayed with me ever since.

Of course, we also know the benefits of picking up new skills are far more than just financial. One of the amazing things about my job is that I get to help people develop new skills that open doors and give them new career opportunities. It’s a fantastic moment when you see someone apply themselves, step out of their comfort zone and realise their potential.

So that’s why on Social Mobility Day, I want to add my voice to those already calling for the next government to go back to the drawing board on the Apprenticeship Levy because, in all honesty, it’s not working right now at all.

I say that because half of retail's £250 million annual contribution to the Levy is unused. And that’s at a time when the world around us is changing faster than ever before.

Simply put, we need to go further and faster to give people the skills they need to thrive. As retail employs nearly 20% of the UK’s workforce, upskilling people and providing more apprenticeship opportunities is critical.

The UK urgently needs to reform the Apprenticeship Levy into a broader Skills Levy. This would allow businesses like ours to offer more apprenticeships and invest in a wider range of high-quality, accredited courses. We’re already doing so much through our state-of-the-art training facilities and programmes, but we’re constrained by the number of apprenticeships we can offer due to inflexibility of the Levy. This means we, like other retailers, aren’t making the positive impact at scale that we could be.

Now is the time for change. Now, more than ever, we need to be building ‘skills for life’ - skills that are crucial for embracing new technology, developing high-performance teams, creating strong cultures and of course delivering great customer experiences. By doing so, we’re not just harnessing the potential of our own colleagues but unleashing the power of businesses up and down the land to make a real difference to our economy and to the social mobility of millions. Let’s seize this moment together and encourage the new government to #BuyIntoRetail.