Companies across grocery have thrown their weight behind this week’s National Apprenticeship Week.

Asda marked the week by celebrating the graduation of the first 130 members of staff from its Asda Skills Academy. The graduates received level two and three City & Guilds qualifications. More than 4,200 enrolled when the Skills Academy was launched last June.

“Training and qualifications don’t just give people pieces of paper,” said CEO Andy Clarke. “They give them the confidence to do more than they thought they could.”

The Co-operative Group, meanwhile, revealed it had received 64,000 internet enquiries about its Apprenticeship Academy since it launched in June 2011. The society, which last week said it planned to recruit 800 apprentices in 2012, said it was getting 80 enquiries for every role it advertised, and called on other retailers to “step up to the plate”.

“Businesses have a responsibility to open doors for young people by giving them opportunities to gain new skills, knowledge and experience,” said CEO Peter Marks.

According to Skillsmart Retail, the number of apprenticeships completed has increased by 190% in the past five years and the drop-out rate has nearly halved, from 70% to 31%. Last year 11,400 apprenticeships were completed in England alone.

“We are delighted retailers have realised how valuable apprenticeships are,” said Skillmart CEO Anne Seaman. “Retail is one of the few industries where people can work their way up from the shop floor right through to the boardroom. This ability to spot potential is part of the reason apprenticeships have proved so successful in the sector.”