Tesco and Spar have shown their commitment to the next generation of retail workers by pledging their support for the Diploma in Retail Business. Both retailers have outlined plans to offer work placements to school students.

The diploma, developed with input from Tesco, Sainsbury's, Spar and Waitrose, is open to students aged 14 to 16 and will be taught in 55 areas from this September. A survey by Skillsmart, which developed the diploma, found a third of retailers believe young people lack the experience or attitudes their businesses require.

More than a quarter of participants in the survey reported that younger job applicants lacked self-motivation and initiative and a quarter also believed they lacked customer handling ability. And both Tesco CEO Sir Terry Leahy and corporate and legal affairs director Lucy Neville-Rolfe have issued outspoken attacks on the calibre of new starters in recent months.

Which was why Tesco was happy to support the scheme, said UK operations personnel director Hayley Tatum. "As the largest private sector employer in the UK, Tesco will offer students the chance to develop and put into practice the key skills learnt on the course."

Spar corporate development director Philip Marchant added: "We recognise this training is the ideal way to gain real insight into the culture of retail organisations."