The Co-operative Group is to create 2,000 apprenticeships over the next two years as part of its ongoing campaign to inspire young people.

The society, which currently employs 30,000 staff aged under 25, plans to offer jobs, transferable skills and qualifications as part of a new Apprenticeship Academy, which will operate across the society's portfolio of businesses.

The academy will give apprentices work experience, and the opportunity to work towards a recognised national qualification and join a management training scheme.

"Shackled with the legacy of national debt, an inaccessible property ladder and an uncertain future shaped by climate change, it's a challenging time to be a young person in Britain," said CEO Peter Marks.

"All too often, we see or hear stories that portray youngsters as poorly educated, work-shy and uncaring. As someone who runs a business that employs more than 120,000 people, a quarter of them under 25, I know this just isn't true we must start talking up the young and see them as the solution rather than the problem."

Meanwhile Skillsmart Retail's latest Skills Trends data revealed people working in retail are more skilled than ever before. The number of retail workers with no recognised qualification has fallen from 17% in 2002 to 11% in 2010 due to increased training across the retail sector.