A new programme is set to launch later this year to make it easier for independent retailers to take on apprentices.

The Retail Apprenticeship Training Agency (RATA), which will launch in the autumn, will provide a simplified way for indies to offer apprenticeships, by removing the bureaucracy, cost and risk involved.

Apprentices on the programme will be employed by RATA and hired out to the independent retailer, which will pay for a year’s placement while they complete their apprenticeship. RATA will take responsibility for all pre-employment and on-the-job training as well as pastoral care.

Smaller retailers will also be able to benefit from apprenticeship grants - £1,500 is being made available to 40,000 SME businesses that recruit 16 to 24-year-olds, to encourage new employers to take on apprentices.

The launch of the programme follows research that found that although 11,000 retail apprenticeships were completed in England last year, very few were employed in independent stores.

“The key to this programme is to get local young people into jobs in their local shops,” said Anne Seaman, chief executive for Skillsmart Retail, which is running the programme with the National Skills Academy for Retail.

“We know there is a strong interest but indies have been put off in the past by the apparent complexity of setting up, or taking on, an apprentice. This mentoring way of working will give apprentices the retail skills they need as well as the business acumen and confidence to think about starting their own business.”