In the week The Prince's Trust claimed that a third of 16 to 24-year olds cannot afford the financial outlay required to get a job, Tesco has announced a scheme for school leavers that it says offers an alternative to mainstream education.

The retailer is introducing the two-year training course with the promise that the best recruits could be store managers earning £50,000 by the time they are 23. Sixty people have already signed up for next month's inaugural course.

Recruits can gain three A-level equivalents by completing an NVQ level 3 and Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award, and the syllabus develops skills such as team building and leadership. 

After successfully completing the course, recruits will be enrolled on the Tesco trainee management scheme to continue their development.

"Mainstream education is not for everyone," said retail director David Potts. "We want to show that there is another way for young people to progress into well-paid jobs with prospects. The school leaver course is a great option for those who would prefer to learn on the job." 

Tesco also runs and fully funds a degree course at Manchester Metropolitan University and London's University of the Arts. 

"Developing our leaders of the future is a fundamental part of our success," said Potts. "These schemes help us to ensure we are training our colleagues at every level."