Tesco would double the number of apprentices this year, opening schemes to 2,000 new and existing staff, said corporate and legal affairs director Lucy Neville-Rolfe, speaking at the IGD's Food and Grocery Skills and Employment Summit this week. The retailer also unveiled its partnership with Teach First, designed to tackle 'attitude problems' among school leavers.
Asda chief operating officer Andy Clarke also announced the launch of a new retail programme. Stressing the importance of "winning the hearts and minds of young people", he pledged up to 15,000 work experience placements for 14 to 16-year-olds, 15,000 apprenticeships for Asda staff and 28,000 new jobs, all with City & Guilds-accredited training.
"The general consensus among the young is that retail brings little more than pocket money. We want to show how much more it can be," he said.
As part of the scheme, all Asda's 371 stores will adopt a local school or college to help introduce young people to the world of work.
Asda's initiative coincides with the launch of Sainsbury's Bakery College, which is designed to halve to six months the time it takes for bakers to complete the NVQ.
The wider grocery industry is also stepping up its efforts. Some 80% of food manufacturers and retailers expect to increase their training and development over the next 10 years, and 19% of companies expect to increase their training budgets by more than 25%, the latest research from IGD revealed. Leadership was flagged as a top priority for 55% of businesses.
"Food is the largest manufacturing industry. We employ 3.6 million people and food and drink sales account for almost £150bn. We need to present ourselves as the powerful force we are; we can punch well above our weight but we need to join together and shout about it," said CEO Joanne Denny-Finch.