The Co-operative Group has this week unveiled its new Apprenticeship Academy, which promises to “inspire” young people and help move them up the career ladder.
Costing £9 million, the academy spans all areas of the Co-op’s business portfolio, including its food, pharmacy, automotive, legal and financial arms.
Each apprentice will be assigned to one area of the company, where they will work towards a recognised qualification and be given the chance to become part of the group’s Management Development Programme.
Eventually the Co-op wants all of its recruits under the age of 25 to be part of the academy, where they can gain a range of transferable skills and professional competences that aid their future career development.
Launching the scheme, which is part of the retailer’s recently announced ethical plan to increase its support of UK communities, Group CEO Peter Marks said: “With youth unemployment hitting the highest rate in nearly 20 years and almost one million 16 to 25-year-olds out of work, it’s a really tough time to be a young person in Britain.
“We believe businesses have a real responsibility to help motivate and inspire young people by giving them new opportunities to gain the skills, knowledge and experiences to be pioneers for their generation.”
Co-op’s scheme comes as the government today rolled out its Work Programme initiative, which aims to get long-term unemployed people back into work as well as reduce the number of people claiming benefits.
The programme will see approved providers, including a number of private sector firms, try to find employment opportunities for over-25s who have been jobless for at least a year and roles for under-25s who have been unemployed for nine months or more.
With the UK’s second largest grocer Asda launching an inter-company college for retail qualifications last weekend, in addition to the arrival of Co-op’s new academy, it appears that British retailers are already making a commitment to training the workforce of tomorrow.
Speaking at the British Retail Consortium Retail Symposium earlier this week, Asda CEO & President Andy Clarke said: “I know personally just how important it is to learn new skills, and how life changing they can be for a young person starting out.
“At Asda, we don’t just offer our colleagues a job, we give them the opportunity to build a fulfilling career in retail.”