As proposed cuts to higher education spending threaten future numbers of university places and higher study fees, 39 employees last week graduated from Tesco's retail foundation degree course, with the qualification earned while studying on the job.
More than 24,000 Morrisons employees are to receive their vocational qualifications this week in the largest graduation of its kind.
The Tesco graduates are the second group of students to complete the ‘learn while you earn’ degree that offers career progression and the prospect of studying without debt.
Lucy Neville-Rolfe, corporate and legal affairs director at Tesco, said: "There can be no doubt that today’s graduates are entering a market where getting a job is extremely tough. The Tesco foundation degree offers employees the opportunity to gain a degree while working and earning. The students graduating today are ambitious employees who have clear career progression and have displayed fantastic determination and organisation by studying for a degree while working full time.
"Learning on the job forms an important part of the degree course and subsequently allows employees to study without the associated cost and potential debt that many students now face.
"Above all, the retail foundation degree allows people who otherwise might not have been able to afford to study for a traditional university degree to gain a recognised qualification and further their skills."
Studying for up to 12 hours a week alongside a full-time job, students are now graduating from this two-year course with an average salary of £23,539 – greater than the average starting salary of graduates from more traditional university degree courses.
Run in conjunction with Manchester Metropolitan University and University of the Arts London, the Tesco foundation degree teaches students a range of skills that can be transferred across the retail sector. Skills include understanding consumer behaviour, in-store marketing, retail law and retail leadership. The study costs for each employee are paid by Tesco and each student can take two days of paid study-leave per term.
Morrisons has trained 24,000 butchers, bakers, greengrocers and fishmongers to QCF Level 2 and is now pledging to extend the programme across the entire spectrum of supermarket jobs.
EdExcel, the awarding authority, says the number of individuals receiving the awards this week is ‘unprecedented’. It is taking on extra staff to prepare certificates for Morrisons colleagues. Of the 24,000 a record-breaking 3,500 employees will also be awarded a retail/modern apprenticeship. A further 2,000 colleagues have also signed up for the apprenticeship programme.
Morrisons wants to lead the retail trade in building craft skills among its people – it claims it already trains more bakers, butchers and fishmongers than any other retailer.
It is on track to train 100,000 people to QCF Level 2 by 2011 through its Academy as part of a multi-phased roll-out. The next phase will see the training programme targeted at the Cafe’, Canteen, Petrol, Wines & Spirits, Warehouse and Home & Leisure departments. By next year Morrisons will be training cleaners, checkout operators and grocery staff to the same level.
Norman Pickavance, group HR director for Morrisons, said: "We believe Morrisons can gain a competitive advantage by having the best trained staff. For example, we want our butchers to skillfully produce meat to a customer’s specification and be able to advise them on how to cook it. Our customers will go home happier as a result.
"We also want Morrisons to be seen as the best employer in the food trade and training forms an important part of our offer to employees. We want to take this opportunity to congratulate all our hardworking staff who have achieved the QCF Level 2 and apprenticeships."
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