The Co-operative Group has announced plans to hire 2,000 apprentices over the next three years.

The jobs for under-25s are part of a £9m investment in the society’s new Apprentice Academy.

As well as food and farming, roles will be available in areas of the business including pharmacy, legal and funeral care.

“With youth unemployment hitting the highest rate in nearly 20 years and almost a million 16 to 25-year-olds out of work, it’s a really tough time to be a young person in Britain,” said Peter Marks, chief executive of The Co-op.

“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.”