By Helen Webb, Chief People Officer

We’ve been offering apprenticeships for many years in all of our business areas which have truly enhanced our Co-op and the lives of the colleagues who’ve taken part.

Currently, we have more than 1,200 apprenticeships across our Co-op. These colleagues are based in our support centre in Manchester right through to the frontline in UK high streets in our food stores and funeral homes. We’ve got colleagues who have joined from our Academy schools, colleagues who’ve made career changes and colleagues who simply wanted a new challenge.

Giving people the opportunity to make their mark through an apprenticeship can drive social mobility and help tackle the persistent inequalities in our society. This is fundamental to our Vision of Co-operating for a fairer world. That’s why I’m committed to make sure that everyone has an equal chance to fulfil their potential and that’s why the Co-op champions apprenticeships.

But we know that we can and want to do more. And we have a plan where we think we could create hundreds more apprenticeships.

That’s why we’ve been working with the University of Warwick’s Institute for Employment Research (IER) and have today unveiled our report into the current apprenticeship policy at a virtual roundtable event led by Steve. Businesses, academics and civil servants attended the event to discuss the report which Steve will be sharing with the Department for Education this week as part of his role in the Department’s Business Engagement Forum.

As a large employer we pay a contribution into something called the Apprenticeship Levy which we can then claim back in part to pay for the training of our apprentices. The Levy has been in place since 2017 but the world has changed since then. We believe that if there was greater flexibility in the way businesses like the Co-op could use that pot of money, we and other employers could go on to create more apprenticeships and opportunities for young people – which is vital in these current times. 

So we’re hoping to work with the government to help address how the national apprenticeship programme can better accommodate different needs, business to business, apprentice to apprentice.

You can read the report and the executive summary we’ve published here.