Shopworkers need access to far better training, a leading union figure warned at the Labour Party conference.
John Hannett, general secretary of Usdaw, heralded the need to address the skills void that businesses face.
Hannett said some shop workers lacked confidence as a result of poor education and few opportunities but said that the situation could be remedied.
"They have little access to training because their jobs are not deemed to require it," Hannett said.
"When there's new technology they are maybe shown once how to use it and that's all the training they are given.
"Feedback from managers and staff who have been trained have said that it made them more confident and flexible and more likely to take up new roles.
"I don't see any deterrent for employers to take this up - it's a win-win situation."
David North, community and government director for Tesco, echoed Hannett's comments and said Tesco offered a number of opportunities for its workers.
"We need 16,000 managers over the next three years and they are not going to be plucked out of thin air," North said.
"If you go to China and see the level of investment in skills you see the dynamism in people. We need to achieve that."