Investing in apprentices is good for business, especially during the recession, according to Dragons' Den star and retail entrepreneur Theo Paphitis.

Speaking at a Skillsmart Retail apprenticeship event in London last week, he urged retailers to consider offering apprenticeships.

As a teenager, his own apprenticeship with Watches of Switzerland had shaped his career, he claimed. "I left school and didn't have a clue what I was going to do," he said. "I turned up for work on the first day and it changed my life - that was it. Now, I can't think of wanting to do anything else."

Also speaking at the event, Tesco UK operations personnel director Hayley Tatum revealed the retail giant had taken on 2,000 apprentices in the past five years and more than 50% had been promoted in the past year.

"Investing in good-quality training that we are sure can deliver a return on our investment is what we are all looking for," she said. "In our experience, we've had better retention rates among our apprentices. In this climate, when we need to be flexible and fleet of foot as volumes and customer demands change, we've got the flexibility with that workforce."

Added Therese Edmonds, training manager for Booths: "Motivated apprentices need motivated colleagues - that's me and you. Some 84% of Booths' management team are home-grown ."