Mutual retail group The Co-operative (Co-op) has announced today that it will be hiring 800 new apprentices this year, double the intake of 2011.
The announcement comes before the start of National Apprenticeship Week, a government run initiative which looks to promote UK based on-the-job training schemes through events, awards and competitions, which begins on February 6th 2012.
Co-op will be offering the positions across its portfolio of businesses, including grocery, pharmacy and farming, with each successful applicant receiving training towards a nationally recognised qualification and given the opportunity to progress onto the group’s management scheme.
Over the next 18 months the current government has set a target of creating over one million new apprenticeship scheme to help young people struggling in the current jobs market take a first step in their careers.
In the latest employment figures released by the Office for National Statistics earlier this month youth unemployment increased to 1.027 million, the highest level since records began back in 1992.
Commenting on his company’s new scheme, Co-op CEO Peter Marks said: “Youth unemployment is spiralling with over one million 16 to 25 year olds out of work. Coupled with the unpredictable economic future, it’s no surprise that some young people feel unsupported and demotivated.
“We believe businesses have a real responsibility to open doors for young people by giving them opportunities to gain new skills, knowledge and experience so that together we can build a strong and successful future for young people and our country.”
Marks added that more than a quarter of Co-op’s current employees are under 25 and that the long-term target of the employee-owned business was to make all of it young staff members apprentices.
Research published yesterday suggested that by supporting apprenticeship initiatives UK firms would not just improve the skills of their workforce, but would also sees revenues boosted.
City & Guilds, a vocational education organisation, estimates that if the government meets its target of one million extra apprenticeships by 2013 UK businesses would be boosted by more than £459 million per annum, with retail benefiting from an extra £64 million in revenues.
“Apprenticeships work for both businesses and individuals – providing companies with a skilled workforce to help them grow and giving people of all ages hands-on experience, guidance and qualifications, to help them develop real skills in their chosen career,” Chris Jones, CEO & Director General of City & Guilds, explained.
“So, not only will these apprenticeships inject a much needed financial boost into our struggling economy, but they will also help tackle the current unemployment levels and ensure that businesses have the skills they need for their future growth.”