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Tailor-made for a fashion career

Sam Lobban will be among the first students to graduate from the fashion retail academy this summer.

The 18-year-old from St Albans, Hertfordshire, is taking a higher national diploma in fashion retail. He has learned about store management, customer service, buying and marketing. The course has included work experience and workshops with industry leaders.

Sam has had a long-standing ambition to join fashion retail. He worked part-time in a boutique while studying for his A-levels and wants to be a buyer.

"I always knew I wanted to go into buying, not because of any glossy view of the industry," he said. "I have always really been into clothes and music, but I can't play a musical instrument so clothes are the only way I can make money."

Studying at the academy has helped him gain a place on a degree course at the London college of fashion next year. "This course has really helped. I wouldn't have had the confidence to go through the whole interview process.

It's quite a hard course to get on to. There were around 900 applicants for 62 places."

The fashion retail academy was the brainchild of retail billionaire Philip Green. His company, Arcadia, owns store chains including Topshop and Dorothy Perkins. The group sponsors 50 specialist business and enterprise schools, contributing pound;1.25 million.

Mr Green's fashion academy was launched last September with pound;20m.

Half came from the Learning and Skills Council and half from private sponsors, including the Arcadia Group, Next and Marks Spencer.

Its first 50 students have been housed at the London college of fashion. In September it takes on 200 students in a new building near Oxford Street, the heart of London's clothes retail sector.

The academy aims to be training around 450 students within four years.

Teaching is done by collaboration between college and industry staff through work placements and master-classes. Its curriculum and qualifications are tailor-made for the fashion retail industry.

A spokeswoman said that as it expands, the academy will aim to offer other programmes, including summer schools and top-up courses. "We anticipate that the qualification could be taught in partner colleges around the country, so it would be accessible to a larger cohort," she said.

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