It is difficult to be thankful for many things in this recession but the raised profile of vocational jobs and the merits of a work based 'apprenticeship' should be welcomed. With jobs harder to come by and university fees set to soar, young people are taking a longer, harder look at their next steps after leaving school rather than viewing university as the only option. As retailers, we can offer some great career opportunities in growing businesses.
In May last year, Asda committed to creating 15,000 apprenticeships for 16 to 24 year olds. Our retail apprenticeship programme is open to colleagues who have a permanent position at one of our stores, have completed our 12 week training programme and are not in any other form of education. We give our apprentices wide exposure to all elements of the business and those who complete the programme receive a City and Guilds certificate.
The programme helps us attract talented young people into the business and start them on a career path full of opportunity and possibility. Through hard work an apprenticeship could even lead to a management role; our CEO Andy Clarke left school with one O-level and is passionate about the importance of nurturing and developing young people, whatever their background.
Properly accredited and recognised apprenticeship programmes develop business acumen and commercial understanding, retailers like ourselves can give greater credibility to the sector and demonstrate that people don’t just 'have jobs' in retail, they can build a great career.
Like any business, the retail sector needs to attract talented people in order to grow. We will only be able to do that if we continue to invest in our talent and showcase the fantastic potential within our industry for young people. In return, our apprentices know that in tough times they have an employer who will invest in their future and provide them with opportunities to flourish.
This week has seen some positive announcements from government around its commitment to making apprenticeships easier to access but we still need to make things simpler for the industry and cut some of the red tape. As retailers, we have a duty to invest in the potential of our young people who will be the future success of our business and at the heart of our country's economy.
Sarah Dickins is people policy director at Asda